OVERSHADOWED BY the successes of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, the political left in Switzerland struggles to avoid increasing marginalization. As champions of working-class interests, generous welfare protections, gender equality, and environmental protection, the Swiss left resembles many of the socialist, social democratic, and ecologist forces found in most continental European polities. Although sharing some characteristics with their ideological brethren elsewhere, the Swiss left's successes and frustrations are nevertheless intimately linked to Switzerland's unique institutional configuration.

The primary vehicle for leftist interests in Switzerland is the Social Democratic Party (SP), which began to emerge from the labor movement in 1888 some 40 years after the country's founding. For much of its early history, the SP stood among the ranks of the parliamentary opposition. After the tumultuous ...

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