Election candidates with ‘foreign’ names face discrimination, says study

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Swiss Politics


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Mustafa Atici and Matthias Aebischer
 Mustafa Atici (Right), a Social Democrat MP for Basel City of Kurdish origin, is one of only a tiny handful of Swiss federal parliamentarians with “foreign” sounding names. Most have typically Swiss names like his colleague Matthias Aebischer (Left). Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

People with foreign-sounding names are less likely to be elected in Switzerland, according to a study by the universities of Lucerne and Geneva.This content was published on July 28, 2021 – 16:39July 28, 2021 – 16:39Keystone-SDA/jcOther languages: 2 (EN original)

The authors of the study analysed 600,000 ballots from the 2015 federal parliament elections. These contain detailed information on the number of times voters crossed a candidate off a party list or added them.

Voters in Switzerland receive ballot sheets on which candidate names are grouped in lists according to their party; the voter can then either select a list as a whole, or can chop and change across lists by adding or removing candidate names.

Based on an online lexicon listing all surnames in the municipalities, the survey’s authors differentiated between candidates with a “Swiss” name and those with names not typically Swiss (appearing in the lexicon after 1940 and which might give the impression of a migration background).

They found that voters more often removed candidates who did not have a typically Swiss name from party lists, a tendency more prevalent among right-wing voters. And when adding candidates to their chosen lists they more often added “Swiss” names.


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Political parties can nevertheless take steps to counter this double discrimination, according to the report, including giving candidates with foreign-sounding names a more prominent place on their list.

As a University of Lucerne press releaseExternal link notes, people with migration backgrounds now make up a sizeable proportion of the Swiss population and many have acquired political rights, but they are much under-represented in parliament, especially at federal level. 

source Election candidates with ‘foreign’ names face discrimination, says study – SWI swissinfo.ch

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