Switzerland’s elections to the Federal Assembly on 23 October 2011 demonstrated that Swiss democracy is deep-rooted and pluralistic but the decentralized system of government leads to some regional variations in electoral practice, concludes the final report of the election assessment mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, released on 30 January 2012.
The report says that candidates and parties campaigned freely and actively, with their political rights fully respected, while the system of voter registration, based on population registers, appeared to be highly effective, accurate, and inclusive.
The report notes a very high level of public trust in the election administration. Although election administration bodies are structured in very different ways across the cantons, they have developed a wide range of good electoral practices. However, these have not been harmonized across the country, leaving each cantonal system with its own strengths and weaknesses.
According to the report, federal election legislation provides a general framework for elections in line with OSCE commitments and other international standards, but it does not touch on key aspects, such as the election administration, the election campaign, the role of the media, or election observers. Some of these issues are regulated by the cantons, reinforcing cantonal variations.
Furthermore it is noted that there are no federal regulations governing campaign financing. In order to increase transparency and better inform voters, the report recommends the authorities consider introducing an obligation for public disclosure of candidate and party campaign receipts, sources, and expenditures.
The report also advises reviewing the adequacy of existing safeguards against the potential abuse of postal voting, while two pilot systems for internet voting would benefit from improvements in certification, security, transparency, and, oversight.