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“Swiss democracy is improving in quality”

20.11.2019 – SUSANNE WENGER

At 42 per cent, the National Council now contains more women than ever before. The Helvetia is calling! cross-party campaign masterminded by Switzerland’s women’s associations played a significant role in this regard. Project manager Jessica Zuber explains why the election results are historic.

The National Council – the large chamber – comprises 200 members, of which 84 are now female. The proportion of women has risen from 32 to 42 per cent. Female representation in the Council of States – the small chamber – will be a lot lower. But, as Jessica Zuber says, “It is an historic election for women.” Zuber, a political scientist, headed the Helvetia is calling! campaign by Alliance F, the umbrella organisation of Swiss women’s associations. She notes that Swiss women, who only gained the right to vote in 1971, have increased their parliamentary presence in baby steps over the past decades. “The increments were always three to four percentage points,” she says. Voters have now elected almost a quarter more women to parliament – a record for left-wing and conservative camps alike. “Swiss democracy is improving in quality, because men and women are now more equally represented,” Zuber adds. It is fair to say that this result had been anticipated. Never before have so many women stood for election. Women also stood a better chance of being elected from their lists than in 2015. Helvetia is calling! was actively involved in around a thousand local party sections across the country, motivating and supporting hundreds of female candidates on the campaign trail. Helvetia called – and was heard. Now was clearly the right time. Zuber believes that several factors prove this, not least the women’s strike in June that attracted hundreds of thousands of people. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority in parliament chose to elect two women to the Federal Council one year ago. Regardless of party differences, greater female representation could also have a tangible impact on the political agenda, says Zuber. Examples include policies to promote work-family balance, combat gun violence and tackle environmental issues. Zuber stresses that the Helvetia is calling! campaign will continue beyond the elections: “Our aim is equal gender representation in both chambers.”

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