Thursday, September 03, 2009

Who will be the next Swiss Federal Councillor

Sept 16, 2009, the Swiss Federal Assembly will elect the successor of longtime Swiss Federal Councillor Pascal Couchepin, who will step back after over ten years in office. The Swiss Federal Council is the executive seven-member council who serves as the collective head of state of Switzerland.
Although this means that not the entire Swiss population, but the Swiss Federal Assembly - an admittedly biased subsample of 246 mostly male (75%) members of the Swiss establishment - will vote for the next Federal Councillor, it will still be very interesting to see what the entire swarm of all Swiss thinks who will be the next Federal Councillor.

For my coolhunting I looked at the popularity of 8 leading candidates (Martine Brunschwig Graf, Dominique de Buman, Fulvio Pelli, Urs Schwaller, Daniel Brelaz, Jean-Francois Rime, Pascal Broulis, Didier Burkhalter). I ran the queries both on the Web, and just for blogs. I also checked who is the most popular candidate among the Swiss Germans by adding the word "Bundesrat" (this is the title of a Swiss Federal Councillor in German) to the name as well as "Conseil Federal" - the French title - to coolhunt among the Romands, the native French speakers of Switzerland.

The results are quite interesting. Here is the percentages on the Web for the leading 7 candidates:

On the Web, Dominique de Buman (CVP, 21%), Martine Brunschwig Graf (FDP, 19%), and Jean-Francois Rime (SVP, 17%) are the most popular. As the Web reflects the election history until now, this means that these three candidates have the widest general recognition today.
Just for fun, let's also see if there are some alliances among the politicians on the Web, based on the linking structure on the Web:

It seems as if Dominique de Buman is in a category of his own, while Martine Brunschwig Graf (FDP) and Jean-Francois Rime (SVP) seem to overlap really closely. That's not too surprising, because FDP and SVP in many isues align themselves. Didier Burkhalter (also FDP) is the candidate in the center, close to Fulvio Pelli, (non-)candidate and president of the Swiss FDP.

Now let's see what the blogs are telling us - the network below tells the story. Again Dominique de Buman commands a large share of the vote of the Swiss bloggers. Jean-Francois Rime is much less central here. Daniel Brelaz is even more popular with the bloggers, but wait a moment and look his position in the social blogging network:

The explanation for his popularity is that he is also frequently quoted by bloggers in his role as the mayor of the city of Lausanne, as well as an active member of the green party, which puts him into quite a polarizing position. Not a place to be in to become the next Federal Councillor in consensus-loving Switzerland.

Now let's look what the French speaking Swiss think. Here is the Web ranking:

Martine Brunschwig Graf leads, with Dominique de Buman and Pascal Broulis tied for second place.
The German speaking part of Switzerland shows a different picture on the Web.

Here official non-candidate and president of the Swiss FDP Fulvio Pelli leads ahead of Daniel Brelaz and Dominique de Buman. In the Swiss German Blogosphere, Pelli is out, while Jean-Francois Rime is in the lead, ahead of Didier Burkhalter and Martine Brunschwig Graf.


It is also interesting to see what Web sites are the most brand-building for the candidates (i.e. they have the highest betweenness centrality in the networking pictures). Here is the list:
1. Swissinfo
2. Youtube
3. Wikipedia
4. Facebook
5. Reuters press releases
6. LinkedIn
7. NZZ.ch
8. Parlament.ch

The first Web site is an official Swiss news Web site, but the next ones are the Web 2.0 sites popular with teens and tweens. NZZ.ch, the leading Swiss newspaper, is only number 7. The lesson is obvious: social networking rules the world, at least on the Web!

Back to our original question: who will be the next Federal Councillor: It is still very hard to tell as the leading candidates seem almost tied. Nevertheless, here my try based on the coolhunting insights:
- Dominque de Buman, the leader in two categories across all of Switzerland is my front runner.
- Martine Brunschwig Graf is a consistent third on most charts, so she might take the lead from behind.
- as a long shot, I would nominate Didier Burkhalter (current favorite among the Swiss German bloggers, representative for the largest group in the Swiss Assembly)
Check back in a week, to see how the positions will have changed.

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