Smartvote – Swiss Broadcasting Corporation election barometer – “Operation Libero”

Federal Elections 2019

Putting the puzzle pieces together

by Dr iur. Marianne Wüthrich

Elections are in a few weeks. 4,652 candidates are contesting for the 200 seats in the National Council on 20 October. The 46 seats of the Council of States are also much sought-after in many cantons: about half of those who have run so far are no longer running, but some who wish to remain may be about to be voted out of office (for election procedure, see box entitled “Swiss electoral system – a lot of freedom for the citizen”).
    There is nothing new about the fact that political parties are beating the big drum more or less appropriately as far as content goes and more or less tastefully as far as style goes. However, before citizens make their choice, it is useful to know which interest groups have an influence beyond the parties, to make people vote “correctly”. One of the most prominent is the association “Operation Libero”, which was presented in this newspaper on 21 August.1 Every voter should be familiar with its strange methods, intended to bring as many candidates as possible to parliament according to their wishes. Another, apparently objective “electoral aid” is the online questionnaire of “Smartvote”, which can be filled out and have the “suitable candidates” presented to you. Smartvote is seconded by the “election barometer” of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG2, with much support of the mainstream media, trying to promote the desired parties and to push down the voter shares of the unloved with constant bashing.
    Let us take a closer look at these pieces of the puzzle.

Smartvote: Framework Agreement Switzerland-EU practically omitted

“Find your desired candidates at a mouse click” is the TV SRF recommendation: “With Smartvote’s and SRF’s electoral help, you can find the right politicians for your ballot paper. [...] You have the option of answering either 31 or 75 questions. The Smartvote online voting help compares your answers with those of the candidates. In this way you can find out which politicians come closest to your personal political ideas.” Questions on 15 subject areas – from cannabis legalisation to e-voting – can be viewed and clicked on with yes, rather yes, no or rather no.3 Here we limit ourselves to current European policy.
It is striking that the Institutional Framework Agreement with the EU, which would have to be central to the freedom of the citizen and the sovereignty of the state, does not appear at all. Merely three questions address the relationship between Switzerland and the EU, one of which focuses on the limitation initiative that will be put to the vote next year:4 “Is the limitation of immigration more important for you than maintaining the bilateral agreements with the EU?” The second is addressing directly an EU accession: “Should Switzerland start negotiations on accession to the EU?” The third one deals with the termination of Schengen, which is currently not even up for discussion: “Should Switzerland denounce the Schengen agreement with the EU and reintroduce more controls on persons directly at the border?”
The trick behind it: Most candidates outside the SVP will find the Bilateral Agreements with the EU more important than the limitation of immigration – whereby the acceptance of the limitation initiative by the people could, at most, lead to the termination of the Bilateral Agreements I, i.e. only 7 out of 140 agreements. The central free trade agreement Switzerland-EU of 1972 and its numerous further developments are not at stake. Furthermore, all candidates will affirm that they do not want Switzerland to join the EU, which is often not the truth. Most candidates outside the SVP will stress how important Schengen is for Switzerland’s security and for tourism. As if our police could not cooperate with their colleagues in neighbouring countries without the SIS II digital search system, as they have always done, and as if obtaining a Swiss visa were an insurmountable problem for a globetrotter from China or elsewhere …
On the other hand, most parties and candidates prefer leaving well alone to take a clear stand on the Framework Agreement between Switzerland and the EU shortly before the elections – the online programme Smartvote of the state-owned Swiss Broadcasting Corporation is at their service. Do we want to bet that, right after 20 October, the agreement will once again be at the centre of politics and the media?

SRG election barometer: “Green parties setting course for a record”

The current cross-national climate hype is coming along at just the right time to various Swiss parties, media and think tanks before the elections.
According to the latest election barometer from Swiss television, the Green Party could increase its proportion of voters by 3.4 percentage points compared with the 2015 elections: «The Greens have above all the right political issues on their side.» (Political scientist Michael Hermann in SRF-News from 4 September) The Green Liberal Party, which split off from the Greens Canton of Zurich in 2004 and is now considered one of the so-called middle parties, could also grow by 2.3 per cent according to the election barometer,5 but from a currently low level: The GLP gained only 7 seats in the National Council in the last elections.
For the SVP, on the other hand, major electioral losses are predicted by the election barometer and the mainstream media. This is because, in contrast to other bourgeois parties, it does not allow to have climate change dictated as their most important electoral issue, and because it rejects the Framework Agreement with Brussels in principle because of the binding adoption of foreign law and jurisdiction. In order to influence the voters, also with regard to the forthcoming vote on the limitation initiative, federal offices regularly report on decreasing immigration from the EU area as well as decreasing numbers of asylum seekers. If you look at the forecasts of the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), however, you will see that the population of already densely populated Switzerland, will continue to increase steeply. By 2030, the Swiss population will already be around 10 million – a huge increase on the 7.1 million in 2000.6 According to the FSO, this is due not only to immigration but also to the increasing birth surplus (difference between births and deaths), above all of the foreign population: “Since the end of the 1960s, the birth surplus among the foreign resident population has been much higher than among the Swiss population. […] Since 1998, the Swiss population has been growing almost exclusively on account of naturalisations.”7
After this corrective parenthesis on the purportedly decline in immigration, the figures of the election barometer from 9 September for the SVP: a 2.6 per cent voter loss is predicted. Let us not forget, however, that the SVP achieved a record voter turnout of almost 30 per cent in the 2015 National Council elections. For the 2019 elections it is expected to reach “only” 26.8 per cent, making it by far the strongest party: In second place comes the SP with an expected 18.7 per cent, then the FDP with 16.7 per cent, the Greens would come side by side with the CVP at a good 10 per cent each, the GLP at 6.9. Furthermore, the CVP has had the most seats in the Council of States for decades, currently 14 out of 46, while the SVP, which represents about one third of the national councils, also has significantly fewer seats in the Council of States than the SP and the FDP.

The clou: Sample barometer of choice – survey is not representative!

The survey took place online between 19 and 25 August. The data of 17,128 voters were used for the evaluation. “Since the participants in the survey recruit themselves (so-called opt-in), the composition of the random sample is not representative. For this reason, the Sotomo Research Centre “weighted the answers: The distortions in the sample are counteracted by statistical weighting methods.” This would “achieve a high degree of representativeness for the active voting population”.8
Objection! If the survey participants spontaneously report themselves, the sample is and remains unrepresentative. In using a computer programme “combing” by the opinion research institute Sotomo, the results do not become “more representative”. This as a warning against too much computer faith: With the appropriate software, “IT experts” also fabricate, when required, the “opinion of the active voting population” from randomly assembled expressions of opinion.

“Operation Libero” wants “to shift the majorities in Parliament” (WOZ)

O-tone “Operation Libero”: “This October we call for a change election! We support candidates who are committed to our goals. In Basel-City, ‘Operation Libero’ has chosen Sibel Arslan and Christian Egeler. We invited the two to introduce themselves on 5 September […].” (Homepage, Agenda)
Now, how can you make Swiss voters to vote for the “right” candidates? Quite simply – as many candidates for the National Council as possible should be drawn in for your purposes and the necessary sponsors sought from the representatives of major international corporations who have made the “opening up” of Switzerland a top priority. Incredible, but true.
Let us check in with Isabel Villalon from Inside Paradeplatz and the Wochenzeitung WOZ, which presents itself on its homepage as “the only independent, supra-regional left-wing newspaper in German-speaking Switzerland”. They reveal the goals and methods of “Operation Libero” in the election campaign – and the scandalous willingness of candidates for the National Council to let themselves be used for their goals.

“Tell me whose song I sing, and I tell you which Karrer is behind it.”9

Remark: Heinz Karrer, president of the Swiss corporate union economiesuisse, which in the name of the “economy” – or rather of some bosses of large corporations with little grip on Switzerland – is in the vanguard of the Framework Agreement and the so-called “opening up” of Switzerland, if necessary by abandoning its unique state model. A great partner for “Operation Libero”, which also has the necessary small change at its disposal. The budget is an estimated 1.5 million Swiss francs.
In the WOZ we learn that “Operation Libero” “is currently recruiting 26 candidates from various parties, from the FDP to the Greens. The association has specifically approached the candidates and has promised them to finance advertising, as is evident from a kind of contract that is available to the WOZ. In return, the candidates had to commit themselves to pre-formulated positions.”10
How incredible! Next, we learn on which opinion track the people, who want to become our people’s representatives (!), let themselves be directed. For the WOZ, as a left-wing newspaper, three points are particularly controversial:
1. The “rapid signing of the present Framework Agreement” with the abandonment of wage protection; 2. The increase in the price of energy taxes, which “hits poorer people incomparably harder”, combined with the signing of the electricity agreement with the EU [which would result in the privatisation of our municipal hydroelectric power plants, mw]; 3. The “gradual adjustment of the average retirement age”. As the WOZ rightly points out, these positions coincide with those of powerful business associations. In any case, in addition, not with those of the working population. Isabel Villalon on point 2: “First of all, there would be the energy policy part; highly interesting because it leads directly to the donors. [...] Two birds with the same stone: an electricity agreement with the EU as a precursor to Switzerland’s EU accession and, at the same time, a surge in electricity prices that have been sluggish here for decades. Read, the cash registers will ring for the electricity multinationals. The new Eldorado.”9

Selling voters’ confidence to finance the election campaign!

According to the WOZ, the confidential paper of “Operation Libero” states that the “written consent” of the candidates to the listed “requirements, assessments and positions” constitutes the “binding basis for supporting the candidates”. In order to receive advertising funding, “candidates must mark ‘yes’ or ‘rather yes’ everywhere. This is where the conclusion becomes evident: The association tries to buy candidates.”10
It is not only trying but has succeeded – already with at least 26 candidates for the National Council. Of course, we voters are very interested: What kind of politicians are they who let themselves be drawn-in? So far, there are only a few names evident. The rest has to be revealed before the elections so that we can remove them from our personal electoral list.
What the three people named by the WOZ say about themselves is outrageous: “He does not feel bought, says involved Zurich CVP candidate Philipp Kutter, he will continue to act independently.” Green National Councillor Sibel Arslan asserts, “it was not because of the promised campaign support that she agreed to the paper calling for an increase in retirement age, but above all because of the postulated open migration policy”. And SP National Councillor Eric Nussbaumer says he “did not allow himself to be bought”, but is interested in “non-party cooperation”.10
To characterise such election campaigns, we give Isabel Villalon the floor: “[...] a new stage in the subversion of democracy has now been ignited. The Sicily stage: securing voting behaviour in parliament for money – campaign money – which makes possible an (re)election which, as is well known, subsequently allows board of directors’ and other fees to flow for the National Councils.”9
As I said: many citizens certainly want to know the 26 names (and probably others) as soon as possible – we do not vote for any puppets on a string.

The string-puller: Socialist Tim Guldimann in the pay of global capital

Tim Guldimann, former Swiss ambassador in Berlin, sat for a short time in the National Council for the SP and had the return flights Berne-Berlin paid by the federal treasury. Now he is pulling the strings for “Operation Libero”. Isabel Villalon: “The pattern is well-known from Sicily: the long-serving ‘onorevole’, the string-puller in the background, the one who runs the channel between politics and thicket. An indispensable figure”.9 According to Villalon, Guldimann has helped the completely insignificant association “Operation Libero” gain influence and attention: “True wonders happen when unknown Swiss political associations get into the sphere of offshoots of the Open Society Foundation thanks to the connections of ex-ambassadors. Has Guldimann taken over the ‘operations’ of the Liberoes in Switzerland on behalf of string-pullers abroad?” An interesting question. As is well known, Open Society Foundations are the political instrument of the US billionaire George Soros, who uses them worldwide for colour revolutions and the like. And certain Swiss parliamentary candidates let such agitators pay for them without them “feeling bought” …
“Guldimann makes no secret of it to the WOZ: his goal is to shift the majorities in parliament with 1.5 million Swiss francs behind him.”10 A colour revolution in Switzerland? So that the major electricity companies in the EU can sell off our hydropower and run our unique democracy into the ground, and so that the bankrupt cash box in Brussels can suck our national wealth out of the country? Back to rank, Comrade Guldimann! We are the electorate, and everyone in the democracy has exactly one vote – forgotten already?    •

1    “How much freedom does “Operation Libero” bring? in: Current Concerns from 21. August
2    SRG: Schweizerische Radio- und Fernsehgesellschaft (Swiss Broadcasting Corporation), financed by compulsory charge of households.  SRF: Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (Swiss Radio and Television), Swiss-German programme of SRG, apart from RTR, RSI and RTS in the other three national languages
3    https://www.srf.ch/news/schweiz/wahlen-2019/wahlempfehlung-finden-sie-per-mausklick-ihre-wunschkandidaten-2 (election recommendation-find your wish candidate by mouse-click)
4    see “Mandatory adoption of EU law desperately overplayed”, in: Current Concerns from 19 September
5    SRF-News from 5 September: “Klimafrage bleibt entscheidend. Grüne Parteien auf Rekordkurs”, (“Climate issue remains decisive. Green parties setting course on a record”)
6    Federal office for statistics. Bestand und Entwicklung der Bevölkerung der Schweiz; Szenarien zur Bevölkerungsentwicklung 2015–2045 (Population and its development in Switzerland; 2015–2045)
7    Federal office for statistics. Panorama Februar 2016, p. 2
8    SRF-News from 5 September: “Klimafrage bleibt entscheidend. Grüne Parteien auf Rekordkurs”, (“Climate issue remains decisive. Green parties setting course for a record”)
9    “Sizilien in der Schweiz: Kauf von Nationalräten, graue Eminenzen im Hintergrund”, (Sicily in Switzerland: Buying National Councillors, grey eminences in the background”). Inside
Paradeplatz from 30 August by Isabel Villalon
10     “Operation Libero. Mit dem Einkaufswägeli in den Wahlkampf”, (With the shopping trolley to the election campaign) in: WOZ No 35/2019 from 29 August by Yves Wegelin

Swiss electoral system – a lot of freedom for the citizen

mw. The federal elections take place every four years. The 200 seats in the National Council are allocated to the cantons by the Confederation in proportion to their population. The Canton of Zurich has 35 seats, while the six cantons with the lowest population figures each have only one seat. The cantons are responsible for organising the elections. The National Councillors are elected on a proportional basis (except in cantons with only one seat). The political parties and other groups of citizens submit one or more lists of candidates in each canton. The seats are first allocated to the party lists according to the number of voters, then within the lists to the candidates with the most votes. The options available to citizens in Switzerland are extremely varied. He does not have to choose a party, but can, if he wishes, put together certain persons from different parties. He therefore elects not only the parties, but also the heads.
In the Canton of Baselland, for example, 20 electoral lists with 7 candidates each were submitted this autumn to fill the 7 seats, some of them from the same party, such as the Christian Democratic People’s Party CVP, Junge CVP, CVP Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Each voter selects one of these 20 lists. He can a) put this list unchanged in the ballot box or in the electoral envelope, b) delete individual candidates from his list, c) cumulate individual candidate names, i.e. insert them twice (and delete correspondingly many others; if there are more than 7 candidates on the list, the supernumerary ones will be deleted from below by the electoral office, d) panache, i.e. insert for example 3 candidates from any other lists and delete 3 from his list, e) fill the attached empty list with candidates himself.
In order to calculate the number of mandates of a party, the election office adds up all the individual party votes, in the example given d) 4 for party X, 3 for the corresponding other parties. The second step is to determine which candidates have obtained the most votes within the parties.
Note: The Federal Chancellery was determined to push through that this year’s National Council elections should be held by e-voting in several cantons. As you can see from the above description, the comparison of the many lists of candidates and the selection of the very personal election variant on the screen would hardly be as clear as on paper.
The Council of States consists of two representatives per canton, the six half-cantons (which were created for different historical reasons) each have one Councillor of States. They are elected according to the major system: Whoever has the most votes is elected. They are elected according to cantonal electoral law, so the half-canton of Appenzell-Innerrhoden already elected its Councillor of States at the Landsgemeinde in spring. Most of them elect their Councillors of States at the same time as the National Councillors on 20 October. If several candidates stand for election, not always two of them achieve the absolute majority of the votes, then a second ballot takes place.