Swiss election: Greens gain while far-right loses ground - projection

The Greens made strong gains in Switzerland's election on Sunday while the far-right party lost ground, early results reported by Reuters showed. Environmentalists could potentially win a seat in the coalition that has governed Swiss politics for decades.

As climate change and the country's relationship with the European Union were the main focuses of the political campaign, the Greens rode on voters' climate concerns in the parliamentary election.

Their gains could dilute centre-right parties' grip on power. Changing just one member of the seven-seat cabinet would be a political sensation: the Greens have never had a seat in the four-party Federal Council.

The far-right People's Party (SVP), which won record seats in 2015 amid Europe's refugee crisis, slipped 3.1 points to 26.3% while the Green Party's share surged 5.6 points to 12.7% of the vote, according to a projection for broadcaster SRF based on partial results.

The smaller, more centrist Green Liberal Party (GLP) also advanced to 7.6%. This brings the two parties' combined strength to more than 20% should they join forces.

The centre-left Social Democrats remained second on 16.5% and the centre-right Liberals (FDP) third at 15.2%, but the Greens leapfrogged the centrist Christian Democrats (CVP), which has one seat on the Federal Council.

Cabinet seats have been divvied up among the SVP, SP, FDP and CVP in nearly the same way since 1959. The three biggest parties get two seats and the fourth-biggest gets one under the informal "magic formula" system.

In December, the two parliamentary chambers will elect the government, but in the past it has taken more than one national election cycle for that selection procedure to change the cabinet lineup to more closely reflect the results.

Analysts caution against expecting too radical a shift after a campaign that was light on typical hot-button issues such as migration and Swiss ties with the European Union that have given the anti-EU SVP a boost in the past.

Under Switzerland's unique political system, the election will decide the 200 lower house lawmakers and 46 senators elected to four-year terms, but the make-up of the executive Federal Council will not be decided until 11 December. The country's so-called "magic formula" sees the council's seven cabinet positions divided among the four leading parties.

Currently, six cabinet seats are shared equally between the SVP, the Socialist Party and the right-leaning Free Democratic Party, with the centrist Christian Democrats holding the seventh seat.

The presidency rotates each year. Switzerland's system of direct democracy gives voters a final say on major issues decided by referenda.

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