- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

GENEVA — The nationalist Swiss People’s Party won the highest share of votes in parliamentary elections yesterday after running a campaign that accused the government of being soft on crime and immigration, state-owned Swiss television projected.

If confirmed, the results could give the party a stronger voice in the seven-member Cabinet, which for decades has been delicately balanced among the alpine country’s four main parties.

Since 1959, the Cabinet has been divvied up with two seats each for the left-of-center Social Democrats and two other parties — and one seat for the Swiss People’s Party.

After the projections from yesterday’s voting, the president of the People’s Party demanded his party be elevated to two seats and one of the other parties knocked down to one. “There’s no longer any doubt,” said Ueli Maurer.

Nearly 4.7 million Swiss voters were eligible to cast ballots for the two-chamber National Assembly, which includes the 200-seat National Council and the 46-seat Council of States. The assembly will determine the makeup of the Cabinet on Dec. 7.

The Swiss People’s Party has been gaining strength in recent years, warning that cherished Swiss values of independence and neutrality are being lost and evoking a time when Switzerland had less crime and fewer foreigners.

Full-page newspaper ads by the party last week said, “Certain ethnic groups dominate the criminal statistics,” noting that the number of rapes in Switzerland had risen 70 percent and murders 32 percent in recent years.

In yesterday’s voting, the Swiss People’s Party received 27.2 percent of the vote, more than the largest party in parliament, the Social Democrats, according to the television projections based on returns tabulated seven hours after polls closed.

That would increase the Swiss People’s Party presence in the National Council by 12 seats to 57. The Social Democrats gained one seat for a total of 52.

The Greens — who are not in the Cabinet — also picked up five seats in the National Council, bringing them to nine.

Greens co-President Ruth Genner rejected the People’s Party’s claim to another Cabinet seat and said, “It’s time for the party to be removed completely from the Cabinet.”

The two centrist parties that have long held two seats in the Cabinet suffered losses. The Radical Democrats were in third place with 16.8 percent of the vote, down from 19.9 percent four years ago. The Christian Democrats were in fourth with 14.3 percent, down from 15.9 percent.

The People’s Party on Friday was rebuked by the United Nations refugee agency, which said it had sponsored “some of the most nakedly antiasylum advertisements by a major political party that we’ve seen in Europe to date.”

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