Green gains in Swiss elections

“We expected a Green wave but it’s a tsunami, almost.” Latest Swiss elections follow the ‘Green surge’, with growing concern over the climate emergency leading to electoral gains for Green parties across Europe.

Swiss Parliament, Bern
Swiss Parliament, Bern
Tansy Dando

Switzerland’s two Green parties – the Green Party of Switzerland (GPS) and the Green Liberal Party of Switzerland (GLP) – have made major electoral gains in the country’s latest elections, which took place on Sunday (20 October). 

Taking 13.2 per cent and 7.8 per cent respectively, at 21 per cent, the parties’ combined share of the vote has nearly doubled since the last election in 2015. 

With 28 seats in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament, the results place the GPS as the chamber’s fourth biggest party while the GLP gained 16 seats. 

No single party secured a majority, and with 53 seats the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) remains the biggest, though this was 12 seats lower than in the last election. The centre-left Social Democratic Party came second, winning 39 seats, and the centre-right Liberals (FDP) came third, securing 29 seats. 

In previous elections, Switzerland has seen the same four parties dominating parliament (including the Christian Democratic People's Party, which has now been knocked into fifth place by the Greens). However, it has been suggested that if the two Green parties are able to overcome policy differences and unite, they would represent a potent political force, even though they will not be in the running for a coalition.

Commenting on Switzerland’s latest results, Pascal Sciarini, a political scientist at Geneva University told the New York Times: “We expected a Green wave but it’s a tsunami, almost.”

Switzerland has committed to reducing CO2 emissions to zero by 2050, but with the Green parties hopeful of  having more influence from now on, they will be pushing for even more measures – tighter vehicle emission regulations and air travel taxes, for example, as well as an overall shift to renewable energy.

The results seem to reflect voters' mounting concerns over climate change – not only in Switzerland, but across Europe. 

Increased concern over environmental issues appears to have led to voters supporting parties offering strategies to address the climate emergency. Described as a ‘Green surge’, recent elections show a marked increase in seats held by European Green parties. 

Last month, the Austrian Green Party received its highest ever share of the vote in a general election after winning 14 per cent, and in May, Greens won 20.5 per cent of the German vote in the 2019 Euro elections.