A recently published study by the organisation Transparency International Switzerland shows the scale of lobbying in Swiss politics.
Based on existing records, there are 2,000 relevant links between parliamentarians and outside interests with close to 1,700 organisations represented in parliament. An average member of Switzerland’s parliament has between seven and nine outside mandates.
While the report acknowledges that lobbying is an essential element of democracy, it says it must be governed by clear rules which are largely absent in Switzerland.
In a recent interview with RTS, Eric Martin, the head of Transparency International Switzerland, said the biggest lobbyists are parliamentarians themselves. He says that it is essential to know what rewards are being received from where because these rewards affect independence.
In addition, the report shows how the lack of clear rules around lobbying is eroding public trust. A survey by the organisation showed that three quarters of Switzerland’s population think wealthy individuals have excessive influence over government and two thirds think at least some parliamentarians are involved in corrupt deals.
According to the organisation, lobbying needs to follow three principles: transparency, integrity and equal access to the decision making process. These would be achieved by creating a public register of interests, a lobbying code of ethics and rules preventing deal making behind closed doors. Elected officials and senior administrators failing to declare interests would risk sanctions.
Switzerland ranks 11th out of 19 european countries on a range of lobbying measures and scores particularly poorly on transparency. Switzerland is the only country in Europe not to have legislated in this area.
Switzerland’s transparency is 16% compared to an EU average of 25% and it’s lobbying integrity scores 29% compared to an EU average of 33%. On equity of access to decision making it scores better: 44% compared to an EU average of 33%.