swissinfo launches election website

The Swiss parliamentary elections take place every four years Keystone

On October 19 the Swiss people go to the polls to elect a new parliament.

This content was published on September 15, 2003 - 14:02

swissinfo is launching a special site to help readers get to grips with the most important event in the Swiss political calendar.

Switzerland’s parliamentary elections take place every four years when the Swiss people elect a new House of Representatives and most of the Senate.

And once again voters are spoilt for choice: there are 2,836 candidates on 262 party lists, all vying for a parliamentary seat.

The swissinfo “Election Special” - launched on Monday - explains the parties, the electoral system and the issues.

Top on the list of concerns is the stagnant economy and rising unemployment.

The future of the welfare system is also a major concern, in particular proposals to lower pensions and raise the retirement age to 67.

There are also concerns over healthcare costs, the environment and possible membership of the European Union.

Magic Formula

In addition to these issues, the future composition of the cabinet is playing a major role in campaigning.

Since 1959 cabinet posts have been divided between the four main parties: the Social Democratic Party (centre-left), the Radical Party (centre-right), the Christian Democratic Party (also centre-right) and the rightwing Swiss People’s Party.

The first three parties have two cabinet ministers, while the People’s Party has one.

Under this so-called “Magic Formula”, the posts are divided among the parties according to their political weight. But in recent years, the People’s Party has gained popularity at the expense of the Christian Democrats.

The latest polls show the People’s Party has 26 per cent of the vote, the Social Democrats 22 per cent, the Radicals 20 per cent and the Christian Democrats just 15 per cent.

This shift in political leanings has provoked an intense debate among the parties on the future make-up of the government.

Election special

The swissinfo “Election Special” provides readers with articles to familiarise them with the main topics, including background and analysis of the political parties and the issues topping the election agenda.

Meanwhile, a news section tracks the latest developments in the electoral campaign.

There are also audio files on the election special site, where you can listen to various party leaders describe what they believe to be the most important issues in Switzerland at present.

swissinfo, Olivier Pauchard (translation: Joanne Shields)

In brief

Swiss citizens will vote for a new House of Representatives and the majority of the Senate.

The main issues concerning Swiss voters are the weak economy and the future of pensions.

The distribution of cabinet posts is being hotly debated among the four main political parties in the run up to the votes.

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Key facts

Switzerland’s general elections take place every four years.
The House of Representatives represents the whole Swiss population and has 200 seats, each representing 35,000 inhabitants.
Residents can only vote on representatives in their home canton.
Most Senate members are voted in during the parliamentary election, even though cantons can decide on a new member at any point in the year.

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