Swiss voters back moderate forces
Swiss voters have backed moderate forces in their general election in which nationalists failed in their effort to break through the 30% barrier with a campaign heavy on anti-immigrant sentiment.
The nationalist Swiss People's Party, or SVP, was projected to take 25.9% of the vote for the lower house, a drop of 3% from four years ago, according to public television station SF's latest projections.
On the left, the Greens also sustained a surprising setback, taking 7.9% of the vote, a drop of 1.7% from four years ago.
The SVP and Greens were each projected to lose seven seats in Switzerland's lower chamber, the 200-seat National Council.
"We didn't achieve our election goal," People's Party president Toni Brunner conceded as results from the voting trickled in.
His party's losses reversed 20 years of steady growth in parliamentary elections that are held every four years. It drew 11% of the vote in 1987, but captured as much as 28.9% in 2007.
During that time, support had eroded for two major centre-right parties, the Free Democratic Party and Christian Democratic People's Party, from a combined 42.5% in 1987 down to 30.3% in 2007.
Now, two of the SVP's small centrist competitors are rebounding - at its expense.
The SVP's rise was stalled by the Conservative Democratic Party whose members split from the SVP in 2007, and the centrist Green Liberal Party, which picked up nine seats in the National Council successfully riding a wave of anti-nuclear sentiment following the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant in March.
Barely one of every two eligible Swiss voters typically exercise their privilege to vote. Estimated turnout for the general election remained virtually unchanged at 48.9%, slightly up from 48.2% in 2007.