stage img
  • SwissCommunity

Your chance to elect the new Council of the Swiss Abroad

25.11.2020 – Stefanie Mathis-Zerfass

Between January and June 2021, Swiss expatriates around the world will vote to determine the composition of the Council of the Swiss Abroad (CSA), referred to as the “Parliament of the Fifth Switzerland”. We have put together the following FAQ about the CSA and next year’s elections.

What is the Council of the Swiss Abroad?

The Council of the Swiss Abroad (CSA) represents the interests of all Swiss Abroad vis-à-vis the authorities and the general public in Switzerland. It is therefore referred to as the “Parliament of the Fifth Switzerland”.

How long has the CSA existed?

The CSA has existed in its current form since 1989. Its forerunner was the New Helvetic Society, founded in 1919.

What is the composition of the CSA?

The CSA has 140 delegates, of whom 120 represent Swiss communities abroad and 20 live in Switzerland. Out of this total of 140, two seats are reserved for delegates who represent the young people in the Youth Parliament of the Swiss Abroad (YPSA).

How are the seats distributed?

The official regulations of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) govern how seats are distributed, stating that the CSA determines the number of delegates per umbrella organisation and per country or group of countries based on importance. In other words, the distribution of seats depends on how many Swiss Abroad there currently are per country or continent. The distribution of seats must also provide for an adequate representation of Swiss communities in all parts of the world. At its virtual meeting on 10 July 2020, the CSA determined that the distribution of seats during the 2021–25 parliament would be as shown below.

Why does the CSA include Swiss-based delegates?

The Swiss-based delegates represent the interests of the Swiss Abroad in their home country — representing the CSA within the relevant bodies (parliament, Federal Administration) and championing the cause of Swiss expatriates at a political level. Some are members of the National Council or the Council of States. Others represent institutions or organisations. The CSA appoints these delegates based on the recommendations of the OSA.

How are expatriate delegates elected?

Unfortunately, the OSA is unable to offer e-voting as a centralised means of electing delegates directly in 2021. Unlike at the last elections, there will be no e-voting pilot projects in individual countries either. This is because the e-voting platform developed by the canton of Geneva is no longer available, and because e-voting has been discontinued throughout Switzerland.

When will direct elections be possible?

The OSA has since identified a suitable e-voting system to enable direct voting. However, this system still lacks the necessary funding. The OSA is currently liaising with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in this regard, having discussed the matter at a meeting with Federal Councillor and FDFA head Ignazio Cassis. It is confident of delivering a solution in time for the 2025 elections.

How are the umbrella organisations coordinating the vote?

At the forthcoming elections, the various umbrella organisations (or CSA-recognised Swiss associations, where applicable) will coordinate voting in respective countries in accordance with the CSA’s electoral guidelines. They will be in charge of all other aspects related to the vote themselves, e.g. they may also hold a direct ballot (electronically or by post).

Who can vote abroad?

Any Swiss Abroad is entitled to vote, provided that they belong to a recognised Swiss association. However, umbrella organisations and Swiss associations can also extend the circle of voters to non-members.

When will the elections take place?

The elections will be held from January to June 2021. The responsible bodies in individual countries will determine their own voting dates. On 20 August 2021, the newly elected CSA will meet for the first time to appoint the Swiss-based delegates recommended by the OSA Executive Board.

Who can be voted on to the CSA?

Anyone who wants to stand for election must, specifically, be a Swiss citizen, live abroad, speak French or German, have ties with the Swiss community in their respective region, and be able to travel to Switzerland twice a year in order to participate in CSA meetings. The umbrella organisations and Swiss associations can specify additional eligibility requirements. Delegates receive a modest fee for attending meetings. They must cover the cost of travel and accommodation themselves.

The Council of the Swiss Abroad meeting in Montreux – a show of hands calling on the Federal Council to do more on the issue of e-voting. Photo: Adrian Moser (2019)

What powers does the CSA have?

The CSA is the governing body of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad. As an independent foundation, it represents the interests of the Swiss Abroad in Switzerland. Not only is the CSA able to lobby and make political statements, it can also put forward specific demands, decide on referendum slogans, and issue voting recommendations. However, it has no legislative powers.

What are the CSA’s key achievements?

  • Swiss Abroad enshrined in the Federal Constitution (Art. 40)
  • Continued voluntary old-age and survivors’ insurance (OASI) and disability insurance (DI)
  • Training and education funding for young Swiss Abroad
  • Introduction of postal voting
  • Adoption of the Swiss Abroad Act

For further information, visit > voting & co-determination > The Council of the Swiss Abroad

Details also available from:

Stefanie Mathis-Zerfass,
OSA Legal Service;
tel.: +41 31 356 61 00;

Making an informed choice

Not all countries share the same procedure for electing CSA delegates, so the vote cannot be centrally coordinated. Details of elections in individual countries and regions will therefore appear in the regional editions of “Swiss Review”. The respective Swiss associations and umbrella organisations that coordinate the ballot will provide details on how voting will take place as well as information about election events. Candidates should contact the editorial office of their local “Swiss Review” to have their election profiles published in the regional edition.

Your election hub will play a key role during the elections, allowing voters to engage directly with candidates. You can ask questions, criticise, make suggestions, voice concerns and, naturally, discuss the issues that matter to you.