Where do the Swiss Abroad win political support?

Representatives of the Social Democratic Party in parliament have voted more often than any other party in line with the position of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad. Keystone/Anthony Anex

Which of the major political parties in parliament were the most friendly to the expat Swiss over the past four years? takes a closer look and brings you the findings of an exclusive analysis.

This content was published on August 16, 2019 - 11:00

About one in four of the 760,000 Swiss citizens living around the world have registered to be able to participate in the nationwide votes that are part of the country’s system of direct democracy. Many of them may also be pondering their options in the lead up to the parliamentary elections of October 20.

As a service for the expatriate community, has examined the votes in the Swiss parliament between 2015-2019 to analyse how the different political parties decided on issues of particular interest to the Swiss Abroad.

Together with experts from the independent Politools networkExternal link, who operate the smartvote.chExternal link online voting advice application, we looked at a total of 16 issues that came to a vote in the House of Representatives (but not the Senate) over the past four years.

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), the leading interest group for the expat Swiss community, took a stance on 14 of them, based on the manifestoExternal link approved unanimously by the Council of the Swiss Abroad in 2015.

Survey findings

The Social Democrats lead the table of the six main political parties represented in the Swiss parliament when it comes to supporting Swiss Abroad concerns (for specific details, see chart below).

The centrist Liberal Greens and the left-wing Greens came second and third respectively, ahead of the centrist Christian Democrats. All of these parties mainly voted in line with the positions recommended by the OSA.

The support by the centre-right Radical Liberal Party was more limited, meanwhile, and the right-wing People’s Party only followed the OSA line in about one of five parliamentary votes.

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To some extent the findings appear to confirm the various party political agendas, notably on European policy issues.

This can be seen in the case of the ‘Swiss law first’ initiative, when the right-wing proposal was discussed in parliament ahead of the nationwide vote. Both the Social Democrats and the OSA came out against the initiative.

The Social Democrats have traditionally had close ties with the Swiss Abroad community in the past. Tim Guldimann became the first expat Swiss to be elected to parliament in 2015 as a member of the Social Democratic Party. He is still seen as a strong lobbyist for the expat cause within his own party.

Another reason for the strong parallels between the OSA and the Social Democratic Party is the active role of the latter’s international chapterExternal link. The group has put forward more than 30 candidates for the elections to the House of Representatives this year, ahead of the People’s Party, which is the biggest party in the country.

Hardline critics also accuse the OSA president of pushing a left-wing agenda against the lone opposition of the political right. For their part, the Social Democrats argue the centre-right majority in parliament is blocking expat issues, breaking its own promises

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Detailed analysis

An in-depth analysis of the voting data gives more precise information about the positions of the main parties in five different policy areas, including:

· a select number of people’s initiatives (Swiss law first, implementation of immigration quotas, and abolishing of the licence fee for public broadcasters)

· access for expatriate Swiss citizens to bank accounts in Switzerland

· the introduction of e-voting

· proposed cuts in funding the multi-lingual online platform and the Swiss Review magazine

· miscellaneous issues including dual nationality and complementary pension benefits.

Several findings of the survey stick out. Most parties were in line with the OSA when deciding on e-voting issues in parliament – except for the People’s Party and, to some extent, the Greens.

Decisions on banking access for expatriate Swiss met with opposition notably from the Radical Liberal Party, which is traditionally close to the business community. The other parties, including the People’s Party came out in favour, supporting the positions of the OSA.


The survey is based on the agenda of the OSA,External link completed with information by the main political parties. It covers issues related to the expatriate Swiss community, discussed in parliament between December 2015 to June 2019.

The smartvote application provided the data on the respective votes in parliament and by individual parliamentarians as well as the OSA recommendations. This enabled to examine the level of agreement between parties, parliamentarians and the OSA.

For more details: consult the original version of this text in GermanExternal link, as well as translations in FrenchExternal link and ItalianExternal link.

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