Switzerland's far-right anti-immigration party dominated Sunday's elections, with preliminary numbers showing the populist Swiss People's Party poised to win a third of the seats in the lower house of Parliament. Anti-immigration sentiment has been gaining ground in Europe as a continuing refugee crisis daily sends thousands of asylum-seekers onto Europe's shores.
The Swiss People's Party has long held significant power in both houses of Parliament. The party saw an all-time high in 2008, winning 28.9 percent of the vote in general elections, and though it lost some ground in the most recent elections in 2011, it still finished with 26.6 percent, Agence France-Presse reported Sunday.
Preliminary numbers showed the right-wing party was set to win 64 of 200 available seats in the lower house, breaking its record of 62 seats in 2007, France 24 reported. The Swiss Socialist Party came in second, nabbing a few new seats while losing others, maintaining similar numbers to the 2011 results.
More than a half-million asylum-seekers have arrived on Europe's shores since January, as European Union member states struggled to come up with a unified response to deal with the humanitarian crisis. The Swiss agreed to a European Commission proposal that instituted refugee quotas for member countries based on size and relative wealth.
— Matthew Goodwin (@GoodwinMJ) October 14, 2015
Switzerland has been a relatively unpopular destination for refugees, however, receiving only a few hundred applications for asylum in August compared to the thousands received in neighboring Germany and Austria. Switzerland anticipates receiving more applications in coming months, however, making immigration policy a hot-button issue.
Immigration policy has dominated the election discussion in Switzerland, as in many neighboring countries, and more than half of Swiss citizens polled said immigration was the most important issue this election season, in a recent survey conducted by GFS Bern, a Swiss research agency. Nearly a quarter of the Swiss population is foreign-born, AFP reported, and immigration usually dominates election debate though that debate has been further heightened by the refugee crisis.
“The dominant issue in the campaign has been asylum seekers and migration policy, and the [Swiss People's Party] is seen as the best party to handle these problems,” the Wall Street Journal quoted Lukas Golder, spokesperson for GFS Bern, as saying.