Winner takes all? Switzerland's politicians were at the centre of unusual international interest in October as the country held a national election marred by accusations of racism and xenophobia. But it is the cabinet elections on December 12 that will decide just what effect all the fuss will have on the composition of Switzerland's government.

AuteurLedsom, Mark

The smoke--and indeed the teargas--will have hardly cleared from Switzerland's frenzied national elections before the country's politicians find themselves taking their seats in parliament (many of them for the first time) to determine the future shape of the seven-member cabinet.

Some, especially those from the right-wing Swiss People's Party, may struggle to keep the smirks off their faces as they look to use their new strength in numbers to obtain an even stronger grip on government. The three other government parties will have a lot less to smile about as they seek out allies in an effort to maintain the status qua.

The People's Party was widely expected to do well in the October 21 vote. What nobody seemed to anticipate--whether it was pollsters, political opponents or the People's Party itself--was the scale of that success. Its tally of 29 per cent saw the People's Party securing the biggest share of the vote by any one party since Switzerland introduced proportional representation in 1919.

And all this after a deliberately divisive campaign that saw the party accused of xenophobia or outright racism by opponents, non-government organisations, domestic and even international press.

Riot on time

As the parties on the left and in the centre began their post-election post-mortems, some impartial observers were wondering if the People's Party success was achieved not despite the criticism but because of it.

"The People's Party had by far the most effective campaign, but it also received a lot of help from all the other parties, as well as the Swiss and international media," political analyst Andreas Ladner told Swiss News.

"There are many people in Switzerland who are not very open to international organisations. So if a body like the United Nations comes out and criticises a domestic Swiss campaign, there are plenty of people who will react strongly against that criticism."

Though not in exactly the same bracket as the United Nations, another group who may have unwittingly helped the People's Party were the left-wing rioters who unlawfully disrupted the party's officially sanctioned rally in the Swiss capital Bern just two weeks prior to the election.

Apparently intended as a protest against the party's controversial plans to deport foreign criminals along with their families and ban minarets, the demonstration swiftly devolved into violence and vandalism, causing police to use teargas and rubber bullets.

Two polling organisations...

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