The Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC), Switzerland’s most popular party, garnered even more votes than it did in 2019, mainly at the expense of the Green Party.
On 22 October 2023, the SVP/UDC received 27.9% of votes, winning 62 of the 200 seats in Switzerland’s federal parliament. In second place was the Socialist Party, with 18.3% of votes and 41 seats, followed by the FDP/PLR (14.3% and 28 seats) and the Centre Party (14.1% and 29 seats).
The SVP/UDC gained 9 seats, the Socialist Party gained 2 seats, the Centre Party gained 1 and the FDP/PLR ended up one seat down.
The biggest losers were the Green Party (-5 seats) and the Liberal Green Party (-6 seats). The Green Party had been demanding a seat on the Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive. These seats are allocated to parties roughly in proportion to the level of popular support. However, now that the Green Party has slipped below the psychologically important level of a 10% share of votes (now 9.8%) its calls for a seat on the executive will now have less legitimacy.
The election result represents a clear shift from the left to the right. The Green Party forms part of Switzerland’s bloc on the political left. The SVP/UDC along with the FDP/PLR and Centre Party are on or towards the right with the latter two parties taking more centrist positions on many political subjects.
The UDC/SVP’s campaign emphasised controlling immigration and resisting certain environmental policies that it argues are behind rising electricity prices. The UDC/SVP also emphasised the cost of refugees and the energy transition, tapping into concerns around the rising cost of living, which was a major theme at this election.
In 2019, the Green Party made huge gains. Back then the world was a calmer place and climate change was a dominant concern among many voters. These days voters have become increasingly concerned with war, immigration and inflation, in particular recent sharp rises in healthcare costs. These issues have somewhat displaced concerns related to climate. However, the Green Party’s campaign had little to say on these concerns.
The Socialist Party campaigned more heavily than the Green Party on purchasing power and this may have helped it pick up votes from disaffected left-leaning Green Party supporters.
The federal election result has the potential to boost right-wing causes, such as tougher immigration and asylum policies. At the same time parliamentary decisions will continue to require support from the centre. With only 62 out of 200 seats the SVP/UDC will need to put forward policies that also appeal to other parties. In many cases it will be aiming to enlist the help of the FDP/PLR and Centre Parties. However, the pro-business FDP/PLR has a preference for allowing in the EU workers that help to boost the Swiss economy. On the other hand rules that make it easier to deport failed asylum seekers, a favourite SVP/UDC policy, may now find sufficient support in parliament.
In addition, Switzerland’s regular referendums act as a counterbalance to radical political shifts. Anything passed by parliament can be put to a popular vote and potentially overturned.
Voter participation in this election was 46.6%. In the canton of Schaffhausen, the only canton where voters who don’t vote are fined, the rate was 61.6%.
All figures are from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).