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Poll jolt for Swiss anti-immigration People's Party

23 October 11 20:18
SVP campaign poster, Burgdorf, 21 October, 2011

Switzerland's right-wing People's Party has seen its share of the vote fall at parliamentary elections, defying forecasts of a historic result.

It had campaigned on a tough anti-immigration platform, and had predicted it would receive an unprecedented 30% of the vote on Sunday.

But with the count nearly complete, it was set to get less than 27%.

Its calls to limit immigration strictly are now likely to be quietly ignored, a BBC correspondent says.

The party lost votes, in part, to a more moderate breakaway party, the Conservative Democrats, and a new Green Party also did well.

Both these parties focussed on issues which have worried voters this year, like the strong Swiss franc and its effect on the economy, or future energy policy now that Switzerland has decided to phase out nuclear power, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports from Geneva.

The People's Party had been buoyed by recent successes in campaigns to ban minarets, and to automatically deport foreign criminals.

But voters gave the party something of a slap in the face - fewer votes and the loss of seven parliamentary seats, our correspondent notes.

The party's single campaign theme - restricting immigration - did not seem to find favour.

Switzerland's foreign population may be almost 25% but its unemployment rate is less than 3%.

Voters know many Swiss businesses, and their health service, depend on foreign workers, our correspondent says.

While the People's Party remains the largest party, its chances of negotiating more power in Switzerland's coalition government are now greatly reduced, our correspondent adds.

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