Swiss nationalists set vote record

By Alexander G. Higgins, AP

GENEVA — The nationalist Swiss People’s Party received the highest vote ever recorded for an individual political party in Switzerland, after a bitter campaign blaming foreigners for much of the country’s crime, according to official results released Monday.

But in the complex world of Swiss politics, where Germanic voters have to get along with fellow citizens of a Latin temperament, Sunday’s national parliamentary election still leaves the country ruled by the same four-party government, covering a wide spectrum of political views.

The Federal Statistics Office said the People’s Party received 29 percent of the vote. That topped the 1919 performance of 28 percent achieved by the pro-business Radical Democrats when Swiss elections were reorganized immediately after World War I.

The Social Democrats, the second-largest party, were the big losers, dropping to 19.5 percent from 23.3 percent.

The People’s Party added seven seats to bring to 62 its total in the 200-seat National Council, the lower house of parliament, also edging out the Radical Democrats’ 1919 record of 60, according to the statistics office.

The Green Party added six to its 2003 performance, bringing its total to the party’s best showing of 20 seats, reflecting concerns for the environment on the left.

Although many saw the campaign as tainted by racism or xenophobia, the Swiss elected their first black parliament member Sunday — Ricardo Lumengo of the Social Democrats, an Angolan who arrived in Switzerland as an asylum seeker the 1980s and subsequently became a legal expert.

People’s Party president Ueli Maurer and other party leaders pledged to continue working among the four major parties in the long-standing Swiss system that covers the wide range from Social Democrats on the left to People’s Party on the right. All four parties share in the governing Cabinet, without a prime minister and with the president only a figurehead.

In the campaign the People’s Party called for a law to throw out entire immigrant families if a child violates Swiss laws — the most recent variation of the party’s anti-foreigner theme.

“I’m very happy,” said Maurer. “We have reached the highest score ever since this electoral system began.”