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14 October 2015
Invasion potential expected to push Swiss right in polls
Geneva (AFP) - The Swiss head to the polls Sunday to vote in a new parliament, with the populist right seen as likely to strengthen its already dominant position amid concerns over migrants and asylum rules.
The surging numbers of migrants and refugees moving through Europe have heightened the focus on the issue in Switzerland, even though the wealthy Alpine nation has yet to be significantly affected by the crisis.
The last poll from the gfs.bern polling institute showed that 48 percent of those questioned thought migration was the most important issue facing the country.
Power-sharing and consensus rule are the norm in Switzerland and elections rarely lead to major shifts in parliament or the makeup of the government, which does not directly reflect the power balance in the house.
But the latest polls suggest the scale is tilting from the centre-left towards a centre-right majority in parliament, which has 200 seats in its lower chamber and 46 in the upper chamber.
"That could clearly impact future decisions," Andreas Ladner, a political scientist at Lausanne University, told AFP, suggesting a centre-right tilt in parliament could lead to "stricter immigration policies."
About a quarter of Switzerland's eight million inhabitants are foreign nationals, and immigration and asylum policies tend to figure among voters' top concerns.
Pollster gfs.bern said the country had not seen a campaign so dominated by a single issue for decades, with only nine percent choosing the runner-up issue -- Switzerland's relationship with the neighbouring European Union -- as the most important.
Ties with the EU were badly hit by a narrow Swiss popular vote in February 2014 in favour of restricting immigration from the bloc.
- Migration crisis boosts right -
Switzerland's largest party, the populist rightwing anti-immigration Swiss People's Party (SVP), appears to be benefiting from the increased focus on its pet issue, mainly at the expense of the Greens and other smaller parties.
The latest poll handed SVP nearly 28 percent support -- up from the 26.6 percent it managed in the 2011 election and close to the record high 28.9 percent it won in 2007.
"SVP is clearly benefiting from the European crisis," Ladner said.
Pascal Sciarini, a political scientist at Geneva University, however noted a heightened feeling of solidarity towards the migrants moving through Europe, which "may not benefit SVP".
He suggested the party, which in 2007 sparked outcry with posters of three white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag, had toned down some of its anti-immigrant rhetoric.
SVP, which championed the vote to restrict immigration from the EU, has demanded a new referendum aimed at tightening Switzerland's already strict asylum laws.