Swiss People's Party: Wikis


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Swiss People's Party
German name Schweizerische Volkspartei (SVP)
French name Union Démocratique du Centre (UDC)
Italian name Unione Democratica di Centro (UDC)
Romansh name Partida Populara Svizra (PPS)
President Toni Brunner (chair)
Members of the Swiss Federal Council Ueli Maurer
Founded 1971 merger of Agrarian Party and the Democratic Party
Headquarters Brückfeldstrasse 18
CH-3001 Berne
Ideology Conservatism,
Economic liberalism,
National conservatism,
Right-wing populism,[1]
Official colours Dark Green
Politics of Switzerland
Political parties
Swiss Federal Council
Federal Chancellor
Federal Assembly
Council of States (members)
National Council (members)

The Swiss People's Party (SVP) also known as the Democratic Union of the Centre (UDC) is a right-leaning populist, national conservative political party in Switzerland.

The party, which is the product of a 1971 merger of the Party of Farmers, Traders and Independents (BGB/PAI, founded 1917) and the Swiss Democratic Party (founded 1942), has undergone deep structural changes under the influence of entrepreneur Christoph Blocher in the 1990s.

The latest party platform represents a move to the right with greater emphasis on free markets and European identity. The rightward move has caused conflicts among party members and with other parties. These conflicts escalated in the context of the 2007 Swiss Federal Council election. Following Blocher's failed re-election in 2007, some moderates within the party split off, forming the Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland (BDP). As of February 2009 it is estimated that the SVP retains around 23% of the popular vote, while the BDP holds about 4%.[2]





Originally, the SVP was a centrist party founded in 1917 representing farmers. The party formally was organized in 1936 as the Party of Farmers, Traders and Independents (BAE/PAI). In 1971 the BAE merged with the Democratic parties of Glarus and Grisons (founded 1942) and became the SVP. However, beginning in the 1980s, it transformed itself to a right-wing conservative party under the unofficial leadership of entrepreneur Christoph Blocher.

The party currently positions itself to the right of the political spectrum and has a reputation for using uncompromising rhetoric. Among political opponents, it has also gained the reputation as a party which simplifies opposing policies while making use of populism and polarization. Foreign media and political opponents have accused the party of being extremist, something that the party tries to prove otherwise.[citation needed]

For a long time after 1929, the party was ranked as the fourth largest party in terms of popular support lagging behind the SP, the CVP and the FDP. However, since 1991 the party has steadily increased its share of the total popular vote and became the strongest party after the 2003 federal election. This allowed the party to obtain a second seat in the Swiss Federal Council, occupied by Christoph Blocher from 2003 to 2007.

Rise of the party

The rise of the SVP from being a medium-sized centrist farmers' party to become the strongest party in Switzerland took place during the four federal elections between 1991 and 2007. During this period, the party's "Zürich wing", led by a small group of party leaders of the Zürich cantonal branch, i.e. the circle surrounding Christoph Blocher (including Ueli Maurer, Christoph Mörgeli and others) introduced a new style of campaigning against the party's political opponents, employing previously unknown levels of right-wing populism. There was a move away from the popular base of farmers towards urban conservatives and neoliberals, along with constant attacks on foreign residents and the propaganda of Überfremdung. This drew many protest votes and the party's popular ballot rose from 12% in 1991 to 29% in 2007.

The SVP was traditionally strongest in the German-speaking areas of Switzerland, but it has gained significant support also in the French-speaking part. As of 2007 the party is strongest in Thurgau and Schwyz (both over 40% popular support), and weakest in Fribourg, Valais and Ticino.[3]

2007 election and party split

The Swiss Federal Council is based on a consensus model called the magic formula, whereby seats in the 7-member Federal Council are assigned according to each of the four major party's share of the latest general election. The SVP had been participating in this governing coalition since 1929, and owing to the remarkable increase in its popularity, had gained a second ministerial position in the Federal Council in 2003. This seat was taken by Christoph Blocher himself, the figurehead generally credited with the party's electoral success.

The 2007 Swiss federal election confirmed the SVP as the strongest party in Switzerland. A controversial and polarizing campaign, calling on voters explicitly to strengthen Blocher against alleged attempts to oust him from government[citation needed], led to the SVP winning the largest share of the national vote of any party since 1919, gaining 62 of the 200 seats in the National Council.

Exploiting the division in the SVP between the Blocher-led "Zürich wing" and the more moderate "Bern wing", anti-Blocher MPs from other parties nominated Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, a moderate SVP MP to contest the seat in government that Blocher fully expected to reassume. Mrs Widmer-Schlumpf was duly elected to serve as a second SVP minister besides her equally moderate colleague Samuel Schmid. It was only the fourth time in Swiss history than an incumbent government member was not re-elected.

Outraged at what they saw as virtual exclusion from the Federal Council despite having won the largest share of the popular vote, the SVP parliamentary party voted 60-to-2 to exclude Schmid and Widmer-Schlumpf from the parliamentary group, and to act henceforth as an opposition party within parliament. However, Schmid and Widmer-Schlumpf were still members of the SVP (although excluded from the meetings of the parliamentary group). Some SVP politicians called for Schmid's and Widmer-Schlumpf's exclusion from the party, yet it was not clear how this could be done. In the Swiss system, individuals are members of their respective cantonal party which in turn is a member of the national party. Exclusion would have to be carried out by the cantonal party, which Schmid's and Widmer-Schlumpfs parties in Bern and Graubünden refused to do.

On 1 June 2008 the national party decided to expel its Graubünden section on account of its continued support for Widmer-Schlumpf. The delegates of the SVP Graubünden decided on 16 June to form the first cantonal section of the new Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland, which was founded at the national level on 1 November.[4]


One version of the 2007 poster. "creating security"

The policies of the SVP are characterized by national conservative positions for the preservation of Switzerland's political sovereignty and a conservative society. Furthermore, the party embodies the principle of self-responsibility of the individual citizens, and is skeptical toward any expansion of governmental powers. This stance is most evident in the rejection of an accession of Switzerland to the European Union, the rejection of military involvement abroad, and expansion of state involvement in areas such as social welfare and public education.

The emphases of the party's policies lie in foreign policy, immigration and homeland security policy as well as tax and social welfare policy. Among political opponents, the SVP has gained a reputation as a party that maintains a hard-line stance.

In its foreign policy the SVP opposes all currently organized projects that will result in further participation of Switzerland in intergovernmental and especially supranational structures, including the UN, EEA, EU, Schengen and Dublin treaties, and closer ties with the NATO. The party embodies strict neutrality of the country and the preservation of the strong role of the Swiss army as the institution responsible for national defense. The army shall remain a militia force and should never expand its role to include foreign interventions.

In its immigration policy the party commits itself to clear strengthening of the asylum laws and a reduction of immigration. The SVP opposes immigration directly into the social welfare system and criticizes the high proportion of foreigners in the rising number of public insurance benefit recipients and other social welfare programs. According to the opinion of the party, such benefits are a waste of tax revenues. Numerous SVP members have shown themselves to be critical of Islam by having participated in the minaret controversy, during which they pushed for an initiative to ban the construction of minarets.

Another key concern of the SVP is what it alleges is an increasing influence of the judiciary on politics. According to the SVP, this influence, especially through international law, increasingly puts the Swiss direct democracy in question. Public law which is legitimate by direct democracy standards should be agreed upon by the federal court. The international law, which, according to the SVP is not democratically legitimate, shall always be subordinate to the Swiss law. The SVP also criticizes the judiciary as undemocratic because the courts have made decisions against the will of the majority. Therefore, the SVP promotes the preservation of voting procedures in the question of the naturalization of foreigners, even after the federal court ruling, which deemed such a procedure as unconstitutional. According to the SVP, the racism penalty and anti-racism commission should be abolished in the interest of freedom of speech.

The SVP supports supply-side economics. Therefore, it is a proponent of lower taxes and the elimination of the budget deficit. The SVP is in a dilemma in terms of its agricultural policy since, in consideration of it being the most popular party among farmers, it cannot oppose agricultural subsidies and the current system of direct payments to farmers. The freedom of movement agreements with the EU and its extension toward new member states of the EU is looked at skeptically by the SVP and is associated with unlimited immigration and increased criminality.

In terms of the environment, transportation and energy policy the SVP mainly opposes governmental measures for environmental protection. Therefore, in its transportation policy the party endorses the expansion of the Swiss freeway network and is against the preference of public transportation over individual transportation. It supports the construction of Megaprojects such as AlpTransit but criticizes the cost increases while demanding more transparency. In the scope of environmentalism and energy policy the SVP does not support taxing businesses for their carbon emissions and supports the use of nuclear energy. In the context of reductions of CO2 emissions, the SVP cites the limited impact of Switzerland and instead demands globally, and legally binding agreements to address Global climate change.

In social and welfare policy the SVP rejects expansion of the welfare state, and stands for a conservative society. It opposes a publicly financed maternal leave and publicly financed nursery schools. The SVP is skeptical toward governmental support of an equalization of both genders. This is one reason why the SVP has the smallest proportion of women among parties represented in the Federal Assembly of Switzerland. In addition, the SVP has a repressive drug policy, opposing the legalization of the consumption of drugs such as cannabis. At the same time, however, the party speaks out against measures to limit alcohol and tobacco consumption. In its education policy, it opposes tendencies to shift the responsibility of the upbringing of children from families to public institutions. The party complains about the excessive influence of anti-authoritarian ideas originating from the protests of 1968. In general, the party supports strengthening crime prevention measures against social crimes and, especially in the areas of social welfare policy and education policy, a return to meritocracy.

Popular support

Popular vote, 1919-2003. The SVP (until 1971 BGB, in dark green) in 1999 reduced to insignificance the right-wing Swiss Democrats and Freedom Party, which had reached their apex in 1991.

Before their merger in 1971, the two constituent parties of the SVP combined garnered 10%-15% of the national vote, traditionally representing the interests of Swiss farmers. After 1971, the SVP changed its course towards a more populist stance and has greatly increased its popular support, at the expense of the major parties of the centre, taking away 5% of each. The popular vote more than doubled from 12% in 1991 to 29% in 2007, at the same time resulting in a polarisation on the left, strengthening the Swiss Green Party.

In the 2003 federal election its ascendancy to the strongest party in the parliament led the SVP to demand an additional seat on the Federal Council at the expense of the Christian Democrats (now the weakest of the parties in the governing coalition) and threatened to go into opposition if it did not get it.[5] Finally, Christoph Blocher was elected to the Council, replacing Ruth Metzler-Arnold.

In 2003, the party held 55 out of the 200 seats in the Swiss National Council (the lower chamber of the Swiss parliament), 8 out of the 46 seats in the upper chamber, and 2 out of the 7 seats on the Swiss Federal Council (the collective executive body). By 2005, it held 23.3% of the seats in the Swiss cantonal parliaments but only occupied 15.8% of the positions within the Swiss cantonal governments (data from the "BADAC" index, weighted with the population and number of seats). An explanation for this gap may be that many members of the cantonal party sections are young and therefore under-represented in the corpus of the more experienced personnel generally included within governments.

With the further rise in support from 27% in 2003 to 29% in the 2007 election (62 out of the 200 seats),[6] the party matched the historic high-water mark of the Free Democratic Party in 1919. Also in the 2007 elections, the right-wing Swiss Democrats lost their last seat in parliament, their electorate having been almost fully absorbed into the ranks of the SVP. As of February 2009, it is estimated that the SVP retains 22.8% of the popular vote, while the BDP holds about 4%. Basis of this poll was a representative sample of 1231 citizens queried in the period of 20 January to 10 February.[2]


See also

External links


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