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Easy as 123

Before the action gets underway, let’s quickly go over the rules.

This content was published on December 14, 2011 - 08:02

(Regular readers will be familiar with this more detailed explanation of what’s at stake and why).

The Swiss cabinet comprises seven ministers who have to stand for re-election every four years, a couple of months after parliamentary elections. This year, six are hoping for another mandate – one is retiring and will be replaced by a new face.

The seven votes take place according to the order of seniority, i.e. whoever has been a minister for the longest is up first. New ministers have to wait until the end.

Today’s order of play is therefore:

Doris Leuthard

Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf

Ueli Maurer

Didier Burkhalter

Simonetta Sommaruga

Johann Schneider-Ammann

Replacement for Micheline Calmy-Rey

(More detailed personal profiles will be posted just before each vote.)

The three votes where sparks could fly are 2, 6 and 7. All the others are uncontested and should be re-elected without any major trouble (although nothing is guaranteed!)

So, how does a vote work?

Every member of parliament (200 from the House of Representatives and 46 from the Senate) comes together in a joint session to cast his or her vote – in a secret ballot. They can vote for anyone they want, even people who haven’t put themselves forward.

To be elected, a candidate needs an absolute majority, i.e. half the votes plus one. Normally this means 124 votes, but because one senator has yet to be sworn in, today the magic number – assuming everyone turns up and votes – is 123.

In the first two rounds, anyone can be voted for. After that, no new names. Whoever, in the second or subsequent rounds, gets fewer than ten votes drops out. If, in the third or subsequent rounds, everyone gets at least ten votes, the person with the fewest drops out. Continue until there’s a winner!

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