Campaigning is well under way for the local elections which will take place on 28th February 2016. There are posters on billboards all around the town and leaflets are arriving in letter boxes. There are also debates on the local Nyon TV and plenty of column inches are being written in La Côte newspaper about who’s who in the different political parties, their manifestos and missions.
Every Saturday morning in the Nyon market place you will be able to see many of the candidates of the political parties at their respective stands (see photos at the end of this post). If you have any queries or comments about the upcoming election, or even have any questions about living here, this is a good chance to ask all the candidates your questions!
Who can vote?
Swiss citizens whose legal domicile is in Nyon are eligible to vote in the town’s election. So too are “foreign citizens living in Nyon who have been regularly domiciled in Switzerland for at least 10 years, of which at least three in the canton of Vaud”.
Living in Nyon readers that fall into this category will be receiving their voting materials in the post very soon. A first glance at the materials will suffice to convince you that it’s a bit complicated. There are of course, explanations about voting in French on the official Nyon website. This lists all of the names of the parties, the names of the candidates for the conseil communal and for the municipality. However, to help Anglophone voters here’s an explanation below of the voting procedure.
These explanations have been provided by Bob Jenefsky, Conseiller communal and President of the Parti Indépendant Nyonnais . Bob has also provided his contact info at the end of this article if you need to ask him any questions.
How it works
The Conseil communal (100 councillors) is elected by the proportional-representation system, whereas the Municipalité (7 members, including the mayor) is elected by majority vote.
The entire Conseil communal is elected in a single round beginning when voters receive their ballots and ends at noon on February 28 when the polls close. The first round of the election of the Municipalité also ends at the same time. If you are eligible to vote you will soon receive an envelope from the authorities containing materials for both the election of the Conseil communal and the Municipalité.
If you are Swiss, it will arrive together with the materials for voting on the four Federal referendum questions on which all Swiss voters are being asked to pronounce themselves (St. Gotthard highway tunnel, compulsory expulsion of foreigners who have been convicted of crimes, taxation of married couples and food commodity speculation). It will be a big envelope this time! Here, we’ll only look at the election of the Nyon authorities, as this is the only one open to non-citizens:
The Conseil communal is somewhat akin to a city parliament (UK = town council), although it is not a true legislature in the sense that it does not make laws. Candidates (Swiss citizens or eligible foreign residents, see above) must be on an official party ballot.
The seven parties: from the “left” to the “right” of the political spectrum.
The Parti Socialiste Nyonnais; the Parti Verts ; the Parti Indépendant Nyonnais (PIN); the Parti Vert’Libéraux; (the Parti PLR). Les Libéraux-Radicaux; the Parti Bourgeois-Démocratique (PBD) and the Parti Union Démocratique du Centre (UDC)
In addition to the official party ballots, you will also find a blank ballot, which must be filled out by hand, in the voter’s package.
Perhaps you are a member or supporter of a party, or know one or more candidates in one or more parties and would like to vote for them. It’s important to understand that you must first vote for the party and then for the candidates, in order to increase your candidates’ chances to be elected!
Because there are 100 seats to be filled in the Conseil communal, each voter has 100 votes or “suffrages” to allocate (as you can see from the blank ballot, which has space for the names of 100 candidates). The official party ballots have between 10 and 50 names printed on them. Some parties list incumbents at first, others list candidates in alphabetical order, and others list their candidates in random order: it’s entirely up to them.
You have a number of options when voting:
- You can simply choose a party ballot and place it, with no changes, in your voting envelope, together with your ballot for the Municipalité (see below). This is referred to as a “liste compacte”. In that case, the party will receive 100 “suffrages”. When the ballots are counted on February 28, each party will receive the number of seats in the Conseil communal corresponding to the percentage it received of the total number of “suffrages” cast by all voters. The actual seats won by the party will then be allocated to the candidates on its list in descending order of the number of “suffrages” each candidate has received as an individual (i.e. the total number of times each candidate’s name appeared on the ballots submitted). You can increase the election chances of the candidates you like by writing their names in a second (but not a third!) time by hand on the printed ballot (but not on the back!). This is referred to as “cumul”.
- If you have a preference for a particular party, but also like some candidates from other parties, you can vote what is referred to as a “liste panachée”: take the official party ballot, and add each of the names and numbers of the candidates from the other parties that you want to vote for, once or (at most) twice. Each vote for a candidate from another party will be deducted from the maximum 100 “suffrages” going to the party whose list you’re using. You may also cross off the names of candidates on the printed list if you wish (this is called “traçage” and only reduces those candidates’ personal chance of being elected, without deducting “suffrages” from the party).
- Finally, you can take the blank list you received and fill it in by hand with up to 100 names of official candidates (or 50 names, each entered twice, or some combination of names entered once and entered twice). If the total number of names is less than 100, some of your “suffrages” will be lost, unless you write the number and name of an official party list in the upper right-hand corner of the ballot, in which case any remaining “suffrages” (these are referred to as “suffrages complémentaires”) will go to that party. Remember to only enter the names and numbers of official candidates (i.e. those on party lists).
The 7 members of the Conseil municipal (they’re referred to individually as “Municipal” in the masculine, “Municipale” in the feminine and as “Municipaux “in the plural form) are elected in a two-round process:
February 28 Premier tour (first round)
In the first round, candidates for the Municipalité must receive the absolute majority (50% of votes cast plus one vote) to be elected. Those not elected in the first round must face a runoff election on March 20. Each voter can cast a single ballot containing up to 7 names, which may be those of official candidates or of any other eligible person (i.e. write-ins). Those candidates receiving the absolute majority on February 28 are elected. In 2011, 4 candidates were elected in the first round, leaving 3 slots to be decided in the second round.
In the first round, you are allowed to vote for a maximum of 7 members of the Municipalité. You can either use a printed list supplied in your package by one of the candidates, parties or alliances, or fill in up to 7 names by hand using the blank ballot. As for the Conseil communal, you can also modify printed lists by hand, by crossing out and/or adding names, up to a total of more than 7 names.
March 20 Deuxième tour (second round)
To fill any remaining seats in the Municipalité, a runoff election will be held on March 20. Candidates are elected in this round by relative majority, i.e. those candidates receiving the most votes cast will fill any remaining seats. Note that sometimes parties withdraw unsuccessful first-round candidates and replace them with others, and sometimes new alliances and candidates appear as well!
Election of the mayor
The mayor is primus inter pares among the Municipaux, so he must first be elected as a member of the Municipalité. Although the current incumbent, Daniel Rossellat, is expected to run unopposed for re-election, he must first overcome the technical hurdle of being elected to the Municipalité, as only members of that body are eligible to run for mayor. The election for mayor also takes place in 2 rounds: the first, on April 17 (absolute majority required), and the second (if necessary) on May 8 (relative majority).
Need more information?
Got it? Well, if not, don’t worry: you’re in good company! Many native Swiss don’t understand the system, either. If you have any questions after reading all the official information, call me on 079 2025014 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to help.
Bob Jenefsky – Conseiller communal – President, Parti Indépendant Nyonnais (www.independant.ch)
A selection of photos below from Saturday 6th Feb of the campaigning in Nyon.
Photos are placed in random order – Living in Nyon is not affiliated with any political party!
Photo above: Olivier Mayor – Member of the Municipality
Photo above: Daniel Rossellat – Current mayor of Nyon and Fabienne Freymond Cantone, member of the municipality
Photo above: Raphael Weisskopf – Independent candidate for the Municipality