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TRADITIONALLY PEACEFUL and compromising, Swiss political debate at the beginning of the 21st century is marked by a dramatic challenge from the increasingly popular far right. Capturing the largest share of the vote in Switzerland's October 2003 parliamentary elections, the radicalized right now openly questions the decades-old model of consensus politics for which Switzerland is widely known. As is often the case, contemporary controversies such as this one have deep historical roots.

The political right in Switzerland dates from the country's modern inception in 1848. Liberals and conservatives formed the basis of an early two-party system, in which the Liberal Party (today's Radical Democratic Party, or FDP) dominated and the Conservatives (today's Christian Democratic Party, or CVP) provided the usually loyal opposition. The Conservatives laid claim ...

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