The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), which campaigned to stop an influx of immigrants, appears to have seen a downturn in support in parliamentary elections as voters shifted their support to smaller new parties.

The SVP was down 2.1 percentage points compared with the last election in 2007, but was still on track to be the biggest party with 26.8 per cent of the vote, according to a national projection based on partial results and provided by Swiss television.

In second place, the centre-left Social Democrats were seen winning 18.9 per cent of the vote on Sunday, 0.6 percentage points below their showing in 2007.

The SVP had sparked controversy during previous polls, with posters of three white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag leading a UN anti-racism expert to call for the withdrawal of the images.

This year, it has opted for an image of a crowd marching across the Swiss flag, with the slogan: "That's enough. Stop mass immigration."

The SVP was also responsible for the referendum which banned Islamic minarets in Switzerland.

Now their plans for a referendum to deport foreign criminals will bring Switzerland in direct conflict with EU migration laws.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Professor Dr Francis Chaneval, from the University of Zurich, said: "The minaret initiative didn't really harm Swiss economics, but this inititaive, the migration initiative, will harm Swiss economics and you rarely see the Swiss doing harm to their own economics. That would be a real surprise to me."

Alain Bittar, a bookstore owner, said: "The population is ageing and Switzerland needs foreigners because it is them who are going to guarantee their future retirement and a certain stability in terms of taxes."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies