Federal Council election: The truth behind the wild speculation

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SVP-Rösti and SP-Herzog are as good as chosen: What is really behind the wild speculation

The registration period for candidates has not yet expired. But experts are already speculating on all channels about how the Federal Council elections will go. But we really do know. An overview from above.

The Bundesrat brings together what doesn’t belong together, but must be together: the swearing-in of the state government.
(Berne, December 11, 2019)

Image: Peter Klaunzer/KEYSTONE

Switzerland is a nation of will. It is made up of minorities who come together to achieve majorities.

This applies in particular to Federal Council elections. Because in the Bundesrat, things come together that don’t belong together, but have to be together: right-wing and left-wing, German-speaking and French-speaking people, people from the mountains and from the lowlands, payers and recipients, as well as women and men. Also new: practicing parents versus childless and grandmothers.

The list makes it clear that it is impossible to take all these criteria into account in a government with only seven seats. For this reason, the Federal Constitution has limited itself to pointing out that in Federal Council elections “care must be taken to ensure that the regional and language regions are adequately represented”.

The invention of Latin Switzerland

We owe the “Latin Switzerland”, consisting of Romandy and Italian-speaking Switzerland, to this determination. A construct that only appears before Federal Council elections and then immediately disappears again. Its only purpose is to privilege or discriminate against candidates from certain areas – and to pretend that it is not about the people under discussion, but about the cohesion of the country.

In the replacement elections for Ueli Maurer and Simonetta Sommaruga, Latin Switzerland only plays a role in the case of SP candidate Elisabeth Baume Schneider: With the election of the Jura, whose grandparents who were loyal to the Bernese always spoke Bern German in the deepest Jura, Latin Switzerland would receive four seats. The majority of German speakers, on the other hand, would be grossly underrepresented in the Bundesrat, according to the fears in Radio Beromünster’s broadcasting area.

But a battle between the regions is already becoming apparent within German-speaking Switzerland. As usual, Bern, Zurich and Central Switzerland are at the start. Northwestern Switzerland is once again involved as an exotic species, this time even with a chance of success.

A lack of stable smell and the over-representation of the University of Zurich

The starting position: With Evi Allemann from the SP and the SVP parliamentarians Albert Rösti and Werner Salzmann, the canton of Berne has three candidates at the start. That goes against all three. Bern has historically been over-represented in government, both in terms of population and in terms of the canton’s economic output. But as an administrative location, Bern naturally produces an above-average number of people with a penchant for administrative careers. In addition, the commuting distance to the Federal Palace is relatively cheap.

In terms of population, Zurich undoubtedly has a right to one seat in the Federal Council, certainly more than the SP and the FDP each have two. But this time downtown Switzerland is starting with outsiders: SP man Daniel Jositsch has not yet succeeded in making it clear to his red-green Zurich feminists how he wants to represent them in the Federal Council. Just as little as one can imagine that the urban academic Hans-Ueli Vogt carries the stable smell of the SVP into the Federal Council room. In addition, the Federal Assembly will rightly ask itself whether the University of Zurich would not be grossly over-represented with two law professors in the Federal Council.

Central Switzerland brings color into play this time. Michèle Blöchliger, the Nidwalden-British dual citizen without a passport, brings with her an innovative understanding of the administration as a public-private partnership (PPP); Admittedly, it might be too innovative for Parliament. Heinz Tännler, Zug’s finance director, knows what a body check is as a former hockey judge. That would predestine him as foreign minister for negotiations with the EU – but it’s probably not enough.

Success thanks to the left life lie and a litter premium for Freiberger foals

Because this time, northwestern Switzerland, historically blatantly underrepresented in the government, is coming with power: in the person of the grumpy social democrat Eva Herzog. With her emphatically business-friendly tax policy and pointedly left-wing social and socio-political positions, the former Basel finance director and current member of the State Council personifies the life lie of urban left-wing politics: no matter how much corporations are criticized and condemned, their tax money is always welcome to finance ecological and social services. What sounds like a contradiction here is typical Swiss politics: the minority of red-green townsfolk join forces with the minority of the corporate lobby. That should help Herzog to be elected in the Federal Assembly.

500 francs from the federal government for each Freiberger foal: Does Rösti end up in the government thanks to the litter bonus?

500 francs from the federal government for each Freiberger foal: Does Rösti end up in the government thanks to the litter bonus?

Image: Bruno Kissling/Oltner Tagblatt

That leaves the second seat. It goes to Albert Rösti. Although he is Bernese. A mandate that seems irrelevant at first glance is crucial: Rösti is president of the Swiss Freibergerverband, in which the Jura horse breeders are united. Last year, together with his party colleague Guy Parmelin, the Minister of Agriculture, he secured the litter premium for mares: 500 francs per foal. In contrast, the Jura candidate Baume-Schneider has no chance even in the Jura. Rösti is as good as chosen.