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Switzerland - 2019 Election

The next parliamentary elections are on 20 October 2019. The 200 seats of the National Council are allocated to the cantons according to their relative population as recorded in the latest census. Each of the 26 cantons forms a single constituency and elects at least one member. The number of seats per canton varies from one in 6 cantons to 35 in the canton of Zurich. Elections are conducted under a proportional system, except in the cantons that return only one member where a majoritarian system is used.

In the multi-member constituencies, voters choose among candidate lists mainly put forward by political parties. Parties may present a joint list with another party. Parties also often present “special-lists” of candidates representing women, youth, or geographical areas within a canton. Voters may use a pre-printed ballot paper with the list of a particular party and vote for all the candidates on the list. However, voters can also modify a pre-printed ballot paper by deleting candidates, adding candidates from other lists within the same constituency (vote splitting or “panachage”), or entering the name of one candidate twice (accumulation). Voters may also compose their own ballot paper by combining candidates from different lists within the constituency.

All cantons provide Swiss citizens residing abroad with the possibility to vote in, and be elected to, the National Council. To do so, they must register in either their commune of origin or the commune where they last resided. In contrast, only 12 cantons provide the right for non-resident citizens to vote in elections to the Council of States.11 Some 142,000 of the estimated 746,000 citizens living abroad are registered to vote in the upcoming elections.

It is estimated that 1.9 million non-citizens are resident in Switzerland (some 23 percent of the population). Non-citizens do not have voting rights in National Council elections. However, the cantons of Jura and Neuchâtel do allow non-citizens to vote in Council of States elections. While citizenship is an admissible restriction on suffrage for national elections, there is an emerging trend to grant voting rights for local elections to long-term residents who are not citizens.13 In Switzerland, the authority to grant these rights rests with the cantons.

Switzerland has a diverse political landscape. The 13 parties currently represented in the Federal Assembly, together with interest groups and civil society, are instrumental in setting the political agenda. In addition to federal elections, parties campaign throughout each year, either for local elections, referenda, or popular initiatives. The campaign for the upcoming elections is expected to focus on immigration, the economy, and relations with the European Union.

Federal legislation does not regulate the campaign in detail. While advertisements in the press and campaign posters are permitted, political advertisements on broadcast media are prohibited. Parties informed the OSCE/ODIHR NAM that they intend to campaign through posters, canvassing and small meetings, as well as via the Internet and social media.

The media landscape is pluralistic and structured primarily along linguistic lines. There is a variety of public and private television channels and radio stations, a vibrant and diverse press, and an increasing number of Internet-based news sites.

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