Web looms large in battle for votes

The Swiss abroad will be able to vote online by the end of 2004 Keystone

With October’s parliamentary elections looming, Switzerland’s political parties have turned to the web as a way of getting their message across.

This content was published on September 19, 2003 minutes

There are even sites which enable voters to identify politicians whose ideas and priorities are closest to their own.

Although e-voting is not yet a reality, the 2003 vote is already being dubbed the first online election.

Almost all the candidates have a presence on the Internet, either individually or on the website of their political party. They smile at us on screen, they present their ideas and slogans and, using photos or games, hope to pull voters to their sites.

The media is also using the web to catch voters’ attention by offering in-depth information online and, in some cases, tips for choosing candidates. swissinfo is running its own election “special” to keep readers abroad up-to-date.

The most common approach is the “dossier” system, whereby the websites of the main newspapers collect contributions published in the print version and place them on a special page.

This is normally an archive, accessible to everyone, that includes reviews of the legislature and features on specific issues, parties and candidates.

The “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” sums up the main topics in thematic groups: the economy, health, Europe, migration and political parties.


The “Tribune de Genève” takes a more simple approach, and one which is more Spartan, but it is also one of the few websites in French. The papers in Italian-speaking canton Ticino are lagging in this respect – they don't appear have anything under construction at this stage.

No matter, though, Italian speakers can turn to their local supermarket. The Coop publishes a fairly comprehensive overview which can be found on the website of its weekly magazine, “”.

Most innovative is “”, developed by a group of researchers and editors. It is a completely new idea in Switzerland, and gives voters the possibility of defining their political profile online by taking a test.

By answering 24 questions (or 70 in the more complicated version), voters can have their own political profile generated by a computer. Once complete, they need only to select their canton to be provided with a list of candidates who profile most closely matches theirs.

Smart vote

Andreas Ladner, a political analyst at the University of Bern, says the concept has implications for how people identify with their representatives.

“The ‘’ system allows you to identify a candidate with a name and political profile and not just a party." It is therefore possible to vote without having to identify with a political faction.

The drawback to “” is that it is time-consuming to complete the questionnaire and requires voters to trawl through a lot of information (although helpful explanations are provided).

A simpler test is available at "". It has 21 questions, which allows users to define their own political profile. The website, operated by "Cooperazione", has been very successful (with 50,000 hits by the end of August), not least because of the publicity guaranteed by the widely read magazine.

Young voters

To attract young people, some organisations have launched a website called "", which has a youthful appearance and includes some fun games.

The promoters want to involve all people going to vote for the first time with an offering in three languages. Here too, access to "" (in colour) enables voters to define their political profile and to get to know the candidates.

The trilingual website "" is a bold undertaking by a number of sponsors (banks, insurance companies and automobile dealers) and supported by the "Basler Zeitung" and the "St Galler Tagblatt". However, the information is limited to agency material.

This does not put off keen web users, though. "The page is very dynamic: each day features a different candidate, while other interactive elements allow you to draw up your own classification. Some candidates are presented in video clips,” says a web expert. “But there are other websites that are better constructed.”

The most comprehensive website dedicated to the election (thanks in part to the public mandate) is that of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, the parent of swissinfo. "" provides a variety of information in four languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh - including audio and video elements and many written articles.


The initial data on website hits show that almost 40 per cent of the readers live outside Switzerland.

This suggests that Swiss living abroad and foreigners turn to the web for information about the election, probably because of the difficulty of accessing information from other sources.

The next development is likely to be e-voting, where citizens cast their ballots online. Initial trials in local votes have been successful on a technical level (see related story), but concerns remain about privacy.

Analysts say the ability to vote online would almost certainly increase the participation of the Swiss abroad in elections and other nationwide ballots.

"One day the public will do everything from home: picking a candidate and voting will be at the touch of a button," predicts Andreas Ladner.

swissinfo, Daniele Papacella

In brief

Almost all politicians have a web presence, either individually or on the website of their political party.

A new innovation is websites which match up voters with candidates whose profile most closely matches theirs.

Initial data on the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation's election site show that almost 40 per cent of the readers live outside Switzerland.

The next development is likely to be e-voting, where citizens cast their ballots online.

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