The extreme right Swiss People's Party (SVP) is a considerable political force in the country. However, its leader, former international businessman Christoph Blocher, was denied a cabinet seat after making significant poll gains in 1999.
The SVP also has a moderate wing led by its single minister in the four-party cabinet, the federal council. But the moderate wing has been almost eclipsed by Mr Blocher's rise in the eastern, German-speaking regions of Switzerland during the past decade.
This was fuelled by opposition to immigration and closer political ties with the EU. At the last elections the SVP also made significant gains in French-speaking areas.