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Candidates: then and now. Now increasingly numerous and younger

The first National Council elections under a system of proportional representation were held in 1919. Since then, new political parties have emerged at national level, resulting in a greater number of lists and candidates. How has the typical profile of candidates to the National Council changed over time? An analysis by the Federal Statistical Office.

Ever more lists

In 2015, 422 lists were submitted in the cantons using a system of proportional representation (2011: 365). Twenty years earlier (1995), there were 278 proportional lists and back in 1971, there were only 151. These figures were taken from surveys conducted by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).

According to the FSO, this increase resulted from the creation of age-specific, gender-specific and regional lists. In 2015 there were 191 such lists (48 more than in 2011), 126 of which were young candidate lists.

The number of lists has increased, particularly in the cantons of St Gallen (+8) and Ticino (+7). In contrast, fewer lists were submitted in the cantons of Schwyz (-4) and Bern (-2).

Ever more candidates

In cantons where the proportional representation is used, there was also an surprising increase in the number of candidates: in 2015, 3,788 candidates vied for a seat on the National Council, 330 more than in 2011. In 1928, this number was a mere 727. From the 1940s to the end of the 1960s, there were around 1,000 candidates. The figure rose sharply thereafter: 1,947 candidates by 1975 and 2,400 in 1987. 

In 2015, the canton of Zurich had the greatest number of candidates, with 873 (2011:802), followed by Bern with 567, Vaud with 326 and Aargau with 288 (2011:545, 334 and 280 respectively). Trailing this list were Jura with 24 candidates (2011:16) and Schaffhausen with 21 (2011:21).

The cantons of Zurich (+71), Ticino (+54) and Fribourg (+32) recorded the largest increases. The cantons of Schwyz and Vaud reported 14 and 8 fewer candidates respectively compared with 2011.

Candidates in their forties

The average age of the candidates in 2015 was 40.6. This has fluctuated only slightly over the past decades: in 1971 it was 45.7, 43.1 in 1987 and 40.5 in 2011.

Interestingly, in 1971 the percentage of the candidates over 60 and under 30 was very similar to 2015, at 9.7% and 9.3% respectively. Four years ago, a third of the candidates (34.1%) were under 30, while 12.1% were over 60 years of age.

Women in the running

Over the past few decades, the percentage of women candidates in the cantons where proportional representation is used has tended to stagnate. In 2007, 35.2% of the candidates were women and as many as 34.9% in 1995. In 2011, that figure dipped to 32.8% before rising again four years later to 34.5%.
In 2015 the percentage of women candidates in the canton of Basel Stadt was as high as 44.3%, in Zug 40% and in Jura 37.5%. Meanwhile, in Schaffhausen, Neuchâtel, Vaud, Ticino and Fribourg the share of women running for a seat in the National Council was under 30%: at 23.8%, 24.1%, 26%, 27.9% and 29.8% respectively.

Federal Statistical Office: National Council elections 2015 – Lists and candidates
Federal Statistical Office – Political information