Geneva (Switzerland) 2009

It’s a shame that I don’t find the time or information to cover Swiss cantonal elections and Swiss political life, since they’re fascinating topics. However, I’ve recently found out that the Canton of Geneva, a major canton in eastern Francophone Switzerland (Suisse romande). The canton of Geneva was the base of John Calvin’s Reformation, and has historically been a Protestant canton. However, due to immigration, Catholics are now the plurality and the Protestants lag far behind. Geneva, a urban and generally socially liberal canton (not more than the Vaud, I think, though) also has a large ‘no religion’ population – 45% are neither Catholic nor Protestant. However, and unlike the affluent liberal Vaud, the canton of Geneva has a moderately strong populist anti-immigration backlash movement from time to time.

The canton has been historically supportive of two liberal parties, both quite old parties. The Liberal Party (PLS), although minor nationally, has been the top party in the canton since 1985. The PLS is a party based exclusively in the historically Protestant Francophone cantons, and tended to be to the right of the Free-thinking Democratic Party (FDP), known in French as the Radical-Democrats (PRD or Radicals), the major Swiss liberal party. The PRD dominated Geneva between 1948 and 1973 as the largest party. While the PLS and PRD have merged nationally, they remain separate parties in Geneva. The Socialists (PS) have some success here, as does the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP, UDC in French), but you couldn’t call Geneva a stronghold for either. However, the SVP-UDC was the top party in the canton in 2007, but the populist right-wing vote seems to converge on a local party in cantonal elections, the Movement (0f) Genevan Citizens (MCG), which despite it’s claims to be neither right nor left is in practice a SVP-like right-wing populist party notably campaigning in favour of ‘priority to Genevans’ (over immigrants but also the numerous cross-border commuters from France). They are classified as a far-right party, though it also appeals to the far-left at times. Finally, the Greens (PES in French) are a major political force.

These elections were to the legislative branch, not the executive. The legislature is the Grand Council, and is elected through regular Swiss PR under a 7% threshold for seats. The role of the legislature here is similar to the role of the Swiss federal legislative branch. The executive is a seven-member elected Council of State.

Liberal 16.71% (-2.38%) winning 20 seats (-3)
Greens 15.34% (+1.51%) winning 17 seats (+1)
MCG 14.74% (+7.01%) winning 17 seats (+8)
PS-SP 12.91% (-1.71%) winning 15 seats (-2)
PDC-CVP 9.91% (+0.07%) winning 11 seats (-1)
PRD-FDP 9.59% (-0.9%) winning 11 seats (-1)
UDC-SVP 8.56% (-1.04%) winning 9 seats (-2)
solidaritéS-PdT 6.4% (+6.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Defense of Seniors 5.85% (+5.85%) winning 0 seats (nc)

    Turnout was 40% – turnout is usually very low in Swiss elections like these.

    The MCG’s rise might be the result of a local backlash against cross-border commuters from France in times of economic downturn internationally. However, a local populist backlash in Geneva is not new: in 1985 the Vigilants, a similar populist outfit (though more anti-Italian than anti-French), won 19 seats and second place behind the Liberals. They fell to 9 in 1989 and died out in 1993-1995. The far-left, united under one banner this time, won 6.4%, though the combined far-left in 2005 won 14.8% (though no one broke 7%).

    Overall, the Rose-Green Alternative (PS and Greens), the current executive majority, won 32 seats. The right-wing Entente (Liberals, PDC, PRD) won 42 and the combined populist hard right (MCG and UDC) won 26.

    The Council of State is up in November 2009. Its seven members are elected through multi-member FPTP, in a way. In 2005, the PS won 2 seats, the Greenies 2, the Liberals, PDC and PRD one seat each. This gave the Pink-Red Alternative 4 seats against 3 for the right-wing Entente. This time, the MCG could probably elect one, even two, councillors.

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    Posted on October 17, 2009, in Regional and local elections, Switzerland. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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