‘Tectonic Shift’ in Swiss Elections Sees Green Parties Gain as Climate Concern Mounts
Switzerland’s Green Party is declaring a “tectonic shift” after seeing a six-point jump in its popular vote, to 13.2%, in national elections in which concerns about climate change took centre stage.
“It’s more than a wave,” political scientist Pascal Sciarini told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “It’s a tidal wave on the Swiss scale.”
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“The Green Liberals—an environmentalist party with a pro-business stance that split from the Greens in 2004—also gained ground, taking 7.8% of the vote compared with less than 5% in 2015,” The Guardian reports. The anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party (SVP) saw its vote share fall from 29.4 to 25.6%, but remained the largest party in parliament.
An election poll showed climate change as the leading issue for voters, Bloomberg reports.
“It is not a green wave, it is a tsunami, a hurricane,” said deputy Greens leader Celine Vara, who won an upper house seat for Neuchatel canton.
“I think it is pretty obvious that is the most important topic of all in our time and age,” added Anya, a 25-year-old psychology student at a Bern polling station who only provided her first name to Reuters. “There is really not any time to lose.”
“The focus in the coming weeks will turn to whether the Greens—or a coalition of the two parties—will claim one of the seven seats in the national cabinet, which has been made up of members of the same four main parties for the last 60 years,” The Guardian adds. That arrangement is based on a so-called “magic formula” for power sharing which gives the SVP and two other parties two seats each, with the seventh going to the centrist Christian Democrats. In this campaign, all four mainline parties lost popular vote, with the Greens overtaking the Christian Democrats for fourth place.
Traditionally, “the number of seats held by the parties is usually only adjusted if electoral trends have held up over two elections in a row,” The Guardian says. “The influential broadsheet Neue Zürcher Zeitung said the result had called the magic formula into question, but also warned against upsetting the country’s balance of power,” asserting that “it is a wise tradition that parties have to prove their strength over a certain period.”
“Now is the time,” responded Green Party President Regula Rytz, adding that Swiss leaders “may need to discuss a new magic formula” to reflect changing political priorities.
The news report identifies the SVP as the only major party in Switzerland that failed to promise a tougher response to the climate crisis. “In its election posters, the SVP pledged to protect Swiss citizens from three angry aggressors: a Middle Eastern-looking man with a beard, a bespectacled man in a jumper bearing the stars of the EU flag, and a girl wearing her hair in the distinctive style of Greta Thunberg’s braids.” But “the results showed that the SVP struggled to attract young voters, while its ageing electoral base was less motivated to vote than in 2015, when Europe’s refugee crisis was on ‘page one’,” The Guardian adds, citing an AFP interview with University of Lausanne political scientist Oscar Mazzoleni.
“The results provided further evidence that a nation whose economy and lifestyle are closely tied to the country’s stunning snow-capped peaks has grown increasingly concerned about the ravages of climate change,” The Guardian states. “A recent study by ETH Zurich university found that more than 90% of 4,000 glaciers dotted throughout the Alps could disappear by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.”