Rightists make gains in Swiss election

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ZURICH, Oct 21 (Reuters) The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) consolidated its position as the biggest group in parliament today, scooping nearly 29 percent of the vote according to preliminary general election results.

The populist SVP's victory was widely expected after it ran a controversial campaign calling for the expulsion of foreigners who commit serious crimes. The party lifted its share of the vote by 2.1 percentage points to 28.8 per cent.

Its nearest rivals, the Social Democrats (SP), lost some 4 percentage points to 19.1 per cent of the vote, according to a national projection provided by Swiss broadcaster SF, partly because environmentally minded voters turned to the Greens.

The centre-right Free Democrats (FDP) took 15.9 percent of the vote in the alpine nation, a slight decline from 2003, while the centre-left, family-friendly Christian Democrats were steady at 14.6 percent.

The Greens took 9.5 per cent of the vote, an increase of 1.8 percentage points.

Voters cast their ballots to fill 200 seats in the National Council, the lower house, on a proportional basis. They also elect 46 cantonal representatives to the Council of States, the upper house.

Opposition to the SVP's campaign, which used posters calling for the ''black sheep'' of Swiss society to be booted out, spilled over into a rare outburst of violence on the streets of Berne earlier this month when police and left-wing activists clashed.

The SVP's tactics have roiled the waters of Switzerland's traditionally consensus-led politics but the Swiss political system means no one party exerts too much influence.

REUTERS GL PM2345

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