Elections to the Council of States 2023: the parties face challenges

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Elections 2023

Who inherits from whom in the Council of States? Parties are gearing up for national elections – and they still have a lot of work to do

National elections are just over a year away. The fight for the vacant seats in the Council of States is likely to be particularly exciting. The parties are already positioning themselves. It shouldn’t be easy for any of them, it’s much more likely that they’ll all be dealing with small to large construction sites.

Discussions are already underway about who will fill the vacant seats in the Council of States after the 2023 elections.

Image: Anthony Anex/Keystone

Important decisions for the national elections of 2023 will be taken in these days and weeks.Ruedi Noser, member of the Council of States of the FDP, announced that he was no longer running for office. With Regine Sauter (FDP), Tiana Angelina Moser (GLP) and Balthasar Glättli (G), three nationally renowned personalities want to conquer the second seat of the Zurich Council of States. In Vaud, on the other hand, the giants of the SP Roger Nordmann and Pierre-Yves Maillard are fighting for the candidacy for the small chamber. The winner has a good chance of entering the Council of States of the canton of Vaud next year. The stakes in the Council of States elections are high. But it shouldn’t be easy for either party.

MS and the Old Man Problem

National Councilor Flavia Wasserfallen wants to succeed Hans Stöckli.

National Councilor Flavia Wasserfallen wants to succeed Hans Stöckli.

Image: Keystone

The SP group in the Council of States is aging and waiting to be renewed. This will likely be a major test for the party. Can she keep her eight seats or will she continue to lose ground in the left interior duel against the Greens? After the resignation of Christian Levrat (FR), the party has already lost a seat during the legislature, in favor of Isabelle Chassot from the centre.

In view of the 2023 elections, Hans Stöckli (70) has just announced his resignation. National Councilor Flavia Wasserfallen wants to follow in her footsteps. The defense of Paul Rechsteiner (SG) and Roberto Zanetti (SO) is likely to be more difficult than the seat in Bern. Both have yet to announce whether they will indeed step down from national politics. However, given their tenure and age, this is generally expected.

The Greens and the Bundesrat

National councilor and party chairman Balthasar Glättli is interested in a candidate for the Council of States.

National councilor and party chairman Balthasar Glättli is interested in a candidate for the Council of States.

Image: Keystone

The Greens were the surprising winners of the 2019 Council of States elections: they won five seats in the Council of States and thus formed their own group in the small chamber for the first time in this legislature. They are no longer appendages of the SP. At least these five seats must be kept if the Greens want to reassert their claim to a seat in the Federal Council after the 2023 elections. Because a party without a solid base in the small chamber is struggling in the race for seats in the Federal Council.

It is up to the Greens to know if the Vaudoise Adèle Thorens will compete again. Without them, defending the seat of the Council of States will be difficult. Especially since the SP will compete with Maillard or Nordmann. The high priority that the elections to the Council of States accord to the Greens can also be seen in Zurich: party chairman Balthasar Glättli wants to run there himself.

GLP and Majority Capacity

Tiana Angelina Moser wants to represent the canton of Zurich in the Council of States.

Tiana Angelina Moser wants to represent the canton of Zurich in the Council of States.

Image: Keystone

It’s like this: if you want to be taken seriously in Federal Bern, you don’t just have to be strong in the National Council. But also in the Council of States. The GLP is not represented in the small chamber, which is a strategic disadvantage for the party. This is currently manifesting itself, for example, in the reform of occupational pensions. In the large chamber the party tries to impose itself as a search for compromise, in the small chamber it is condemned to be a spectator.

The GLP does not want to attribute itself to any camp, that is to say neither to the left nor to the right. This positioning is a disadvantage during major elections. The party is struggling in government elections, but also in elections to the Council of States. In Zurich, the party now hopes to win a seat in the Council of States with parliamentary leader Tiana Angelina Moser (43). If the canton of Zurich sent a representative of GLP to the Council of States instead of a member of the FDP, this would have great symbolic significance. The proud Zurich liberal knows the danger of losing his seat.

In a great interview with the NZZ, the outgoing Council of States Noser explained why the canton of Zurich would lose with a councilor of the GLP states: “If the canton of Zurich sent a green-liberal individual mask to Bern, he would no longer have a majority position.

According to reports, the GLP wants to win two seats in the Council of States in the 2023 elections. In addition to Zurich, the party has apparently also planned a seat in a small canton. In a small canton, it is easier for small parties with respected personalities to succeed. Green Mathias Zopfi demonstrated this in 2019.

The middle can almost only lose

Brigitte Häberli-Koller is elected President of the Council of States in December.

Brigitte Häberli-Koller is elected President of the Council of States in December.

Image: Keystone

The center party of Gerhard Pfister is a power in the Council of States: with 14 representatives, it is the largest group and can make majorities with the left or the right. This strong position in the small chamber also protects the party from attacks on its sole seat in the Federal Council. The party can (almost) only lose. 14 seats – Isabelle Chassot was added in this legislature – is a lot.

However: The troops are less dilapidated than in the PS and were able to renew themselves significantly during the last elections. Senior civil servants have been politicizing the small chamber since 2011. They are Pirmin Bischof (SO), Stefan Engler (GR) and Brigitte Häberli-Koller (TG). The latter will be elected President of the Council of States in December: it is expected that she will no longer take office in 2023. Bishop, on the other hand, apparently wants to know again. Noser said in the NZZ: “You don’t need too many silverbacks in the Council of States.” Bishop is unimpressed by such phrases.

The FDP and women

The only FDP woman in the Council of States: Johanna Gapany.

The only FDP woman in the Council of States: Johanna Gapany.

Image: Keystone

With 12 seats, the Liberals are in a comfortable position in the Council of States. Defending the Zurich headquarters of Ruedi Noser will certainly be a challenge. In the canton of Vaud, on the other hand, rumors are circulating about the resignation of Olivier Français. French was surprisingly elected to the small chamber in 2015. However, there are also opportunities for the liberals. For example in the canton of St. Gallen, if veteran SP Paul Rechsteiner should no longer compete.

The FDP is particularly interested in the issue of women. With Johanna Gapany (FR), there is currently only one liberal State Councillor. This has not always been the case: FDP women in the Council of States were once a force. You have now set yourself the goal of having one woman candidate for every vacant post in the FDP. It is already clear that in Zurich the FDP is trying to defend its seat in the small chamber with Regine Sauter. National Councilor Jacqueline de Quattro has already taken up her post in the canton of Vaud, and in Saint-Gall National Councilor Susanne Vincenz-Stauffacher is said to be a candidate.

The UDC and its problem child

Alex Kuprecht has already announced that he will no longer compete in 2023.

Alex Kuprecht has already announced that he will no longer compete in 2023.

Image: Keystone

The storm on the Stöckli, it was once: The UDC no longer spits big sounds. It was all the more successful in 2019. With Marco Chiesa (TI), Werner Salzmann (BE) and Hansjörg Knecht (AG), the country’s largest party won three additional seats in the Council of States. It was a great success. Nevertheless, the party faces a challenge – because the group is just as over-aged as that of the SP. It is already clear that Alex Kuprecht (SZ) will no longer compete. National Councilor Pirmin Schwander wants to inherit it.

However, Schwander is positioned much further to the right than Kuprecht – other parties smell the dawn. With Hannes Germann (SH), the SVP also has the oldest Council of States. But he also wants to compete again – and that’s why he recently moved to social media like Twitter. It is not known if TSWT Thomas Minder, father of the rip-off initiative, will start again. Less has also been politicized in the Council of States since 2011. The SVP currently has seven advisers. In view of their high proportion of voters, a modest pack.

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