Parliamentary Chamber: Nationalrat - Conseil national – Consiglio nazionale


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  Nationalrat - Conseil national – Consiglio nazionale

Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  19 October 2003

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the seats in the National Council on the normal expiry of the members' term of office.

Background and outcome of elections:

  Some 4.7 million Swiss were summoned to the polls on 19 October 2003 to elect the new members of the National Council and 41 out of the 46 members of the Council of States.

For the first time since the 1970s, the number of candidates for the National Council fell compared with the previous elections, held in 1999. In the twenty cantons where a system of proportional representation was used, 1 844 men and 992 women, spread over 262 lists, contested 194 seats. The remaining six seats were those of the six single-seat cantons which apply a first past-the-post system.

The electoral campaign focused mainly on the issues of the old-age and survivors’ insurance scheme and the future of social insurance. The Swiss voiced their concern at rising unemployment (3.7%) and pension reform (the prospect of a retirement age of 67 years was vehemently opposed). Other more peripheral issues included the conduct of economic policy during a recession (attack by the Socialist Party on the Christian Democratic People’s Party) and immigration policy (dual initiative pending from the Swiss People’s Party on asylum and naturalisation) as well as environmental issues. The issue of European Union membership, meanwhile, proved so unpopular that it was dropped by all the parties with the exception of the Socialists.

The Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC), led by Mr Christoph Blocher, became the largest party in the National Council. The SVP/UDC, a right-wing populist party, had run an advertising campaign in the run-up to the elections portraying asylum seekers and refugees as criminals, thereby earning itself a rebuke from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). According to the official results, the SVP/UDC now holds 55 out of the 200 seats in the National Council, a gain of 11 seats since the last election. Just behind it is the Socialist Party (SP/PS) with 54 seats, an increase of three. The gains made by the People’s Party were mainly at the expense of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (CVP/PDC) and the Radical-Democratic Party (FDP/PRD), both of which lost seven seats, with respective tallies of 28 and 36. The Greens won 13 seats, compared with 9 in 1999. The Liberal Party, with four elected representatives (-2), was unable to form a group and its MPs will henceforth sit in what has been renamed the “radical liberal group”.

The new Parliament held its inaugural session on 1 December 2003.

On 10 December 2003, the Parliament elected the members of the Federal Council (government) for a four-year term. The elections resulted in a re-distribution of the seven government portfolios which, since 1959, have been divided up on the basis of consensus between the country’s four main parties. This formula had not met with opposition since the 1963 elections and had remained that way until the 1995 elections. The SVP/UDC already held the defence portfolio and has now claimed a second following its success at the polls. Its leader, Mr Blocher, was elected to take up this second seat. For the first time in 131 years, a member of the government (Mrs. Ruth Metzler, PDC, 39 years) was not reelected.

Round no 1 (19 October 2003): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 4 780 440
Voters 2 161 921 (45.2 %)
Blank or invalid ballot papers 37 881
Valid votes 2 124 040

Round no 1: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Candidates Votes %
Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) 391 561 817 26.73
Socialist Party (SP/PS) 350 490 388 23.33
Radical-Democratic Party (FDP/PRD) 417 363 643 17.30
Christian-Democratic People's Party (CVP/PDC) 315 302 355 14.38
Green Party (GPS/PES) 287 155 511 7.32
Liberal Party (LPS/PLS) 47 45 864 2.18
Evangelical People's Party (EVP/PEP) 260 47 839 2.28
Labour Party (PdA/PST) 64 18 930 0.90
Federal Democratic Union (EDU/UDF) 106 26 586 1.20
Swiss Democrats (SD/DS) 127 20 175 0.96
Ticino League 8 7 304 0.35
SolidaritéS 33 10 563 0.5
Green Socialist Alternative 3 4 698 0.22
Christian Social Party (PCS/CSV) 7 7 538 0.36

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total
Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) 55
Socialist Party (SP/PS) 52
Radical-Democratic Party (FDP/PRD) 36
Christian-Democratic People's Party (CVP/PDC) 28
Green Party (GPS/PES) 13
Liberal Party (LPS/PLS) 4
Evangelical People's Party (EVP/PEP) 3
Labour Party (PdA/PST) 2
Federal Democratic Union (EDU/UDF) 2
Swiss Democrats (SD/DS) 1
Ticino League 1
SolidaritéS 1
Green Socialist Alternative 1
Christian Social Party (PCS/CSV) 1

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 150
Women: 50
Percent of women: 25.00

Distribution of seats according to age:  
21 to 30 years : 5
31 to 40 years: 14
41 to 50 years: 51
51 to 60 years: 95
61 to 70 years: 35

Distribution of seats according to profession:

Managers: 34
Legal professions 31
Farmers 23
Teachers 23
Private sector employees 19
Civil servants (incl. former) 13
Medical professions 8
Architects 6
Journalists/writers/publishers 4
Others 52

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