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Originally published October 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 22, 2007 at 8:21 AM

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Swiss reward anti-immigrant People's Party

A nationalist party rode an anti-immigrant wave Sunday to the best showing of any party in parliamentary elections since World War I, while...

The Associated Press

GENEVA — A nationalist party rode an anti-immigrant wave Sunday to the best showing of any party in parliamentary elections since World War I, while the Greens made gains by appealing to environmental concerns, according to partial results and projections.

In one of the most bitter political campaigns in memory in this usually tolerant Alpine nation, the Swiss People's Party called for a law to throw out entire immigrant families if a child violates national laws.

The party gained seven parliamentary seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament, while the Green Party added five, according to projections.

The Social Democrats, the second-largest party, were the big losers, dropping nine seats.

Switzerland's population of 7.5 million includes about 1.6 million foreigners, including many workers from southern Europe and refugees from the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

The People's Party claims foreigners are responsible for much of the country's crime.

Party posters featuring white sheep kicking out a black sheep sparked outrage blamed in part for a riot two weeks earlier.

Despite the strife, the Swiss elected their first black parliament member Sunday — Ricardo Lumengo of the Social Democrats. Lumengo is an Angolan who arrived in Switzerland as an asylum seeker in the 1980s and subsequently became a legal expert.

The People's Party will focus on reducing crime, cutting taxes and keeping Switzerland out of the European Union, said its president, Ueli Maurer.

A Swiss bid for EU membership filed in the 1990s has been suspended by the Cabinet in recent years. The party became the largest in Switzerland four years ago, under leadership of billionaire Christoph Blocher.

It was projected to win about 28.8 percent of the vote, or 62 seats in the lower house — the largest share any party has won since a proportional voting system began in 1919.

Although the party will have more leverage in the formation of the next government, Maurer said it would still share power with the three other major parties. Those include the Radical Democrats and the Christian Democrats, which each won a projected 31 seats.

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In the long-standing Swiss system of consensus politics, the top four parties share in the governing Cabinet. There is no prime minister, and the president is only a figurehead.

The Social Democrats, who focused on rejecting the People's Party proposal, won a projected 19.3 percent of the vote and fell back to 43 seats.

On the left, the Green Party was projected to win 9.6 percent of the vote, increasing its seats in parliament to 19.

The Greens campaigned heavily on combating climate change, including proposals for a ban on air shows and imposition of a jet-fuel tax.

Results for the upper chamber were incomplete because a runoff will be held Nov. 25. The full assembly will then determine the makeup of the seven-member Cabinet on Dec. 12.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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