Vote counting began in Switzerland's federal elections, seeing political promise for green party candidates in the traditionally conservative state.
Two Green parties appeared to have made significant gains as Switzerland elected a new parliament on Sunday, while a populist right-wing party remained the country's strongest but saw its support slip, a projection showed.
The projection for SRF public television, several hours after polls closed, tallied with pre-election expectations that environmental concerns would play out in Switzerland too after boosting green parties in neighbouring Germany and Austria in recent European and national elections.
The wealthy Alpine country of 8.2 million people has a traditionally stable political landscape, with parties ranging from the centre-left to the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party – which has established itself as the country's strongest over the past two decades – represented on the governing Federal Council. The executive doesn't include the two green parties.
On Sunday, the Green Party was projected to win 12.7% of the vote — up from 7.1% four years ago. A second, newer party with an environmental focus, the Green Liberals, was seen boosting its support to 7.6% from 4.6%.
Support for the Swiss People's Party was seen at 26.3%, down from its peak of 29.4% in an election four years ago that coincided with the peak of an influx of migrants to Europe. There are three other parties in the government: the centre-left Social Democrats, who were projected to win 16.5%; the pro-business Liberals, expected to get 15.2%; and the Christian Democrats, with 12%.
It was unclear whether Sunday's outcome would prompt any changes in the government's composition in the foreseeable future. The legislature elects the seven members of the Federal Council, which makes decisions by consensus. The country's presidency rotates between its members on an annual basis, and voters directly have a say on policy issues in referendums several times a year.
The People's Party, the Social Democrats and Liberals each have two seats on the Federal Council at present, and the Christian Democrats have one. Switzerland isn't a member of the European Union but has close ties with the bloc.