By Noele Illien and Cecile Mantovani
ZURICH/GENEVA (Reuters) – The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) is set to bolster its position as Switzerland’s leading political force in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, with the Greens tipped as the biggest losers even as climate change remains a key topic for voters.
In a poll conducted by the Sotomo research institute, 36% of respondents said climate change was an important policy issue, second only to health insurance premiums that symbolize cost of living pressures.
Yet in a shift to the right and a reversal of the “green wave” seen in the 2019 elections, the Greens are projected to slip 3.5 percentage points to 9.7%, according to the poll, while the SVP is forecast to gain 2.5 points to 28.1%.
The result is unlikely to change much the make-up of Switzerland’s government, the Federal Council, where seven cabinet positions are divided among the top four parties, limiting the scope for big policy shifts.
Reto Foellmi, economics professor at the University of St. Gallen, said he expected, however, a change in the tone and focus of the political debate.
“On climate change, the government and the parliament will take the foot off the gas … and with migration the tone will get harder,” he said.
The Social Democrats are projected to cement their position as the number two party with 18.3% of the vote, while the Liberals and centrist Mitte party, both polling at around 14%, will battle for the number three spot.
Political analyst Michael Hermann from Sotomo said the public may have grown wary of the Greens’ agenda.
“The issue is too big for a small country, that’s what some people think,” he said.
One of the Green Party’s candidate for parliament’s upper house, Delphine Klopfenstein Broggini, said geopolitical tensions have played a role in voters turning elsewhere.
“International issues create an atmosphere of fear and some parties seize the opportunity,” she said.
Against such backdrop, the SVP’s focus on restricting migration and capping Switzerland’s population, now at 8.7 million, at 10 million has resonated with voters, Hermann said.
Celine Amaudruz, SVP upper house candidate, said the war in Ukraine and the escalation of violence in the Middle East have validated the party’s focus on security.
“We are credible, because we don’t change our point of view,” Amaudruz told Reuters, adding the Greens were paying the price for their lack of response to controversial actions of radical climate activists.
One topic Hermann said he was surprised to see largely missing from the campaign was Credit Suisse’s collapse and its subsequent rescue last March.
“It was a major issue then, it was very emotional and it was talked about a lot, but actually it is only a minor topic in the election process.”