Swiss national elections

by Malin Roppel
The Green wave reaches Switzerland

The Green wave reaches Switzerland

Green and left parties are the winners of the Swiss National Elections that were held on 20 October. Schweizer Volkspartei (SVP) remains the strongest party but loses the absolute majority with its political partners.  As the position of conservative parties becomes weaker, Swiss Green parties could change the institutional structure of the Swiss Bundesrat sustainably.

Results Summary

The Greens and their splinter party, the Green Liberals can be crowned the winners of Sunday’s national election in Switzerland increasing their results of 2015 by 6,1% and 3,2% respectively. As such, the shift to the political right driven by the anti-migration policy electoral campaign by the Schweizer Volkspartei (SVP) in 2015’s national election found an early end. Although the SVP remains the strongest party reaching 25,6% of votes, the absolute majority with the political partner of choice, FDP (-1,3%), is now a thing of the past. Reaching together a total of 21% of votes, the Greens and the Green Liberals overtake the social democrats, Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz, (SP, 16,8%) which, similarly to their counterparts in several other European countries, were dealt a historic loss. The Swiss Christian democrats, Christlichdemokratische Partei Schweiz (CVP) reached 11,4% of votes. The national election’s turnout of 44% corresponds to the Swiss average turnout for national elections.

Climate change and women’s rights driving topics

The success of the Green parties is undoubtedly due to their electoral campaigns focused on very topical issues, like climate change and women’s rights. Public debates were coloured by climate movements spreading in Switzerland and increasing dissatisfaction concerning the equality of women and men. Recently, protesters claimed for more gender equality in terms of employment, parental leave and parliamentary seats in the Swiss Parliament. Thus, both topics mirrored urgent issues Swiss voters claimed to be discussed by policy makers. Whereas the FDP identified the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the time,and included the voter’s will to find constructive solutions in terms of climate issues in their electoral campaign, the SVP failed to put the topic on their political agenda. Correspondingly, the focus on Switzerland’s potential accession to the European Union as well as migration policy did not seem to be interesting or at least urgent enough to Swiss voters.

Will the institutional magical formula of the Bundesrat soon be disenchanted?

The Green wave might disenchant the unwritten, institutional “magical formula” of the Swiss government, the Bundesrat, that aims to mirror the majorities in the parliament. Until recently, each of the three biggest parties (SVP, FDP and SP) received two of the available seats and the fourth biggest party (CVP) one of the seven available seats. With respect to the election’s results, the Green’s claim to occupy at least one of the available seats becomes louder. Only a few hours after the polls were closed, Regula Rytz, leader of the Greens, took the chance to emphasise that the Greens are ready to join the Bundesrat. In light of this, FDP’s foreign minister and specialist of internal medicine, Ignazios Cassis, might lose his seat as minister, as the pressure increases from both sides of the political spectrum to cut FDP’s Bundesrat seats short.

A glance into the future

The full impact of the Green wave in Switzerland cannot yet be foreseen. This is not only due to the framing of the Green’s success as temporary hype by some political figures and media but also due to the Swiss political system. As Swiss voters are regularly invited to the ballot boxes to articulate their political will, only further electoral successes will show how green Switzerland’s future will be.