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A system you can canton

Keystone

“It’s not the voting that’s democracy; it’s the counting,” wrote British playwright Tom Stoppard.

This content was published on October 23, 2011 - 13:42

How quick are Swiss vote counters? First results are expected to trickle in some time this afternoon – but it’s hard to be precise. At a guess, the smaller cantons such as Uri (pictured), which only has one seat in the House of Representatives, could declare as early as 2pm. First nationwide projections aren’t expected until the early evening.

But there isn’t the sense of urgency in Switzerland that drives constituencies in Britain to incredible lengths in order to beat the national record.

“The quick count was achieved by drafting in 120 vote counters, some with bank telling skills, and by manipulating the traffic lights so the vans bearing ballot boxes from 31 polling stations would have an unhindered journey to the city's main Crowtree leisure centre.”

Switzerland has six half-cantons – Appenzell Inner Rhodes, Appenzell Outer Rhodes, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Basel Country and Basel City – which range in population from just under 16,000 (Appenzell Inner Rhodes) to 275,000 (Basel Country). These six half-cantons send only one lucky candidate to the Senate. The 20 full cantons send two each. The smallest full canton is Uri, whose 35,000 inhabitants (one of whom was once said to be William Tell) are just outnumbered by neighbouring Glarus.

But Glarus doesn’t go home empty-handed – it is the current holder of swissinfo’s prestigious award for Canton with the Best-Named Senators. Stand up not that jenny but This Jenny (pronounced “teece yenny”) and Pankraz Freitag (Mr Friday). Will they be able to defend their title this year? Watch this space.

14.12 UPDATE: This Jenny and Pankraz Freitag have been re-elected to the Senate.

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