Interactive visualisation of cooperation in the National Council and Council of States

The National Council elections are coming up in autumn. So it’s high time to take stock and take a look behind the scenes of parliament: Do the various parties actually work against each other or with each other? And on which issues? And who are the most active or laziest members of the Council? These and many other questions can now be explored in a playful way and on your own – thanks to an interactive visualisation by the Institute Public Sector Transformation at the BFH.

The visualisation depicts the cooperation of the councillors from the National Council and the Council of States as a network.

The nodes of the network represent the members of the Council and the number of initiatives in which they were involved, e.g. as co-signatories. The edges of the network in turn represent the cooperation between the councillors on joint initiatives. The visualisation can be filtered according to numerous criteria, such as legislative period and topic and type of initiative, and thus invites independent exploration of the data.

But what exactly is in the data? Here is a brief overview:

1. National Council

The National Council consists of 200 councillors who submit a large number of proposals in at least four sessions per year. These can take a variety of forms, from simple questions to legislative proposals. They are often supported by a large number of other councillors.

Cross-party cooperation

Most of this cooperation takes place within the parties and parliamentary groups. The party with the greatest internal cooperation is the SP. However, initiatives are also submitted across party lines. The cross-party network shows a clear division along the political left-right axis. On the political left, the Greens and the SP form a common cluster, and on the political right, the SVP. The bridge between the two clusters is formed by the centre parties (CVP, FDP, glp, EVP and BDP), with the EVP and glp grouping themselves more to the left and the FDP more to the right.
The strongest networking between different parties is between the SP and the Greens.

Figure 1: Cooperation on motions on the subject of migration (51st legislative period)Figure 2 : Cooperation on initiatives on media and communication (51st legislative term)

Moreover, non-partisan cooperation can vary depending on the topic. A topic with apparently rather low polarisation potential and therefore relatively much cross-campaign cooperation is media and communication (Figure 1). The situation is different for the topic of migration, where the SVP camp largely splits off (Figure 2).

The political proximity of the centre parties to the left or right camp can also differ depending on the topic. On the issue of the economy, for example, the centre parties BDP and CVP work more closely with the SVP and on social issues more closely with the left parties.

Issues over time

Political interest in certain issues follows the current social discourse and can change over time. The topic of the environment, for example, has become much more important since the 50th legislative period (2015-2019) compared to previous legislative periods.

Figure 3: Cooperation on environmental initiatives (49th legislative term)Figure 4: Cooperation on environmental initiatives (50th legislative term)

One reason for this change is certainly the climate youth, which has put pressure on politicians nationwide to take clear positions since 2018 at the latest. However, while the topic was dealt with relatively evenly by all political camps in the previous legislative periods, in the 50th legislative period it has mainly become a topic of the SP, the Greens and the glp.

The most active councillors

Who among the councillors was the most active in the expiring legislative period? A look at Figure 5 shows that the SP councillors were involved in the most initiatives, both with regard to initiatives concerning legislation and with regard to questions.

Figure 5: Cooperation on motions in the National Council (51st legislative term)

Part of the reason for this is the strong internal party cooperation on initiatives and the close cooperation with the Greens. As of March 2023, National Councillor Martina Munz (SP) has been involved in a total of 814 initiatives, making her the most active member of the National Council in the current legislative period. The second and third-placed women are also from the SP: Sandra Locher Benguerel, with 693 initiatives, and Claudia Friedl, with 679 initiatives. It should be emphasised, however, that the number of co-signed proposals does not give any indication of the actual personal work invested. It can, however, give an overview of the size of the respective personal network and the position within one’s own party.

2. Council of States

The Council of States has 46 councillors, which is significantly fewer than the National Council. As a result, significantly fewer motions are submitted in the Council of States overall and the Council members are thus also involved in significantly fewer motions on average. Nevertheless, most of the trends from the National Council can also be observed in a similar way in the Council of States.

Cross-party cooperation

One difference between the National Council and the Council of States is cross-party cooperation, which tends to be greater in the Council of States than in the National Council (Figure 6). Nevertheless, there is also a visible division of networks by political camps here. In contrast to the National Council, however, the centre parties dominate, both in terms of number of councillors and cooperation. In the Council of States, as of March 2023, the FDP(Damian Müller, Lucerne; 108 proposals), the Greens(Lisa Mazzone, Geneva; 107 proposals) and the centre(Charles Juillard, Jura; 100 proposals) make up the councillors with the most proposals.

Figure 6 : Collaboration on proposals in the Council of States (51st legislatures)

Creative Commons Licence

AUTHOR: Jurek Müller

Jurek Müller, PhD in Climate Science, works at the Institute Public Sector Transformation on the topics of Open Government Data, Linked Data, Public Value, Smart Government and Smart City. His goal is to lay the foundations for a transparent, innovative and participatory society in public administration.

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