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Sunday, October 21, 2007


By Tom Armitage Reuters - Saturday, October 20 11:25 pm

ZURICH (Reuters) - The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) is set to consolidate its position as the alpine nation's most popular grouping in a parliamentary election on Sunday, outstripping its rivals after a provocative campaign.


Polling booths in Switzerland are due to close around midday (11 a.m. British time). A large proportion of Swiss ballots are cast by mail in advance of election day. The first estimated national result is due at around 1900 local time (6 p.m. British time).

According to the last opinion poll conducted before the election, the People's Party are expected to win 27.3 percent of the vote, a slight increase over 2003 when they raced to the top of the polls amid accusations of xenophobia.

The SVP has again run a controversial campaign calling for the extradition of foreigners who commit serious crimes. It has been criticised by opponents and has ruffled the usually smooth waters of Switzerland's consensus-based politics.

Opposition to the SVP's campaign, which used posters calling for the "black sheep" of Swiss society to be booted out, spilled over into a rare outburst of violence on the streets of Berne earlier this month when police and left-wing activists clashed.

The SVP's nearest rivals, the Social Democrats, are expected to take around 21.7 percent of the vote, a decline from 2003, with the Christian Democrats seen winning 15.4 percent and the Free Democrats on 15.5 percent.


Pollsters Gfs.bern said in their last survey that the true winners of the election would be the Green party, whose share of the vote is expected to rise by 2.5 percent to 10 percent amid concerns about the environment and climate change.

The country's approximately 4.5 million voters cast their ballots to fill 200 seats in the National Council, the lower house, on a proportional basis. They also elect 46 cantonal representatives to the Council of States, the upper house.

Analysts do not rule out the SVP and its pugnacious leader Christoph Blocher using its showing in Sunday's election to justify calls for a change in the composition of the Federal Council, the seven-seat National Executive.

This would upset the so-called "magic formula" which in the past has given the three largest parties two seats each, with one for the smallest. This has traditionally ensured decisions are made by consensus.

Those with two seats on the Council, which is elected by parliament, are the SVP, the Social Democrats and the Free Democrats. The Christian Democrats have one seat.

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