Election hopefuls go under the hammer

Fancy swinging a golf club with a member of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party or a flutter on the stock markets courtesy of a centre-right Christian Democrat?

This content was published on September 12, 2007 minutes

With October’s parliamentary elections just around the corner, voters are getting the chance to bid for a day-out with a candidate of their choice via online auctioneers eBay, with the proceeds going to the Swiss Red Cross.

While some of the lots are pretty straightforward, such as paint-balling, hiking, cultural visits and cycle tours, others are slightly more off-the-wall.

Antonio Bauen, who is standing for the Greens, will turn up anywhere in canton Bern with his pedal-powered ice cream "van" and 200 free ices. Bidding had reached SFr112 ($94.60) by Wednesday afternoon.

Elsewhere finance director Barbara Hayoz of the centre-right Radical Party has agreed to fill out a tax return (SFr25.50 at the last count). Or you can spend the day brewing beer and sampling a few ales with Andrea Kennel of the centre-left Social Democrats (surprisingly no bid so far).

Perhaps the most eye-catching lot is a trip to Singapore to meet the Radicals' Gil Schneider, an expat standing for a seat in the House of Representatives, with eBay stumping up the return flight. Frantic early bidding drove the price over SFr250 within 24 hours.

All-party support

To date more than 100 politicians of all colours have signed up to go under the virtual hammer, with a first batch of 63 appearing on eBay on Tuesday.

They include 22 centre-right Christian Democrats, 23 Greens, 18 Radicals, 28 Social Democrats, 25 from the People’s Party and one Liberal.

But with the election campaign turning into one the most fractious in recent history, why is the neutral Red Cross setting foot in the lions’ den of Swiss politics?

According to Natascha Molenaar, project manager at the Swiss Red Cross, it is strictly a fundraising exercise, with the proceeds destined for two projects: one for the elderly in Switzerland; the other to help forgotten disaster victims abroad.

“Generally charitable organisations have not explored the possibilities of the internet in that much detail and we are looking for more modern and interactive platforms,” she told swissinfo. “This was a very good way of doing this, and it is in keeping with our values.”

“We held detailed discussions with eBay to ensure that everyone from each party and each canton is treated equally,” she added. “That was a very important point for us before we engaged in this action.”

Political bidding

It is not the first foray onto eBay for the country's political parties. Last month the Christian Democrats auctioned off some of their party members, with a coffee break with Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard going for more than SFr6,500.

The Christian Democrats – currently lying fourth in the polls – donated the money raised to a child cancer research foundation.

"We saw that the Christian Democrats' initiative was a real success and we wanted to expand this idea on our own terms," added Molenaar.

Sabine Schneider, head of corporate communications at eBay Switzerland, echoed the view that politics was of secondary importance to the main aim of fundraising.

"We have opened it up to all the parties, so it's a consistent position," she said. "But it is the charitable aim that counts."

eBay Switzerland says it will donate its usual commission to the Swiss Red Cross projects.

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont

Key facts

Latest opinion poll:
Swiss People’s Party: 26.2% (26.7% in 2003)
Social Democratic Party: 22.8% (23.3%)
Radical Party: 15.8% (17.3%)
Christian Democratic Party: 15.2% (14.4%)
Green Party: 9.5% (7.4%)
Expected turnout: 49% (45.4%)

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