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2021 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and Gender

Political Careers in Switzerland: Questioning the Unidirectional Model

Political Sociology
Andrea Pilotti
Université de Lausanne
Andrea Pilotti
Université de Lausanne
Roberto Di Capua
Université de Lausanne
André Mach
Université de Lausanne
Karim Lasseb
Université de Lausanne

This paper is focused on career patterns of parliamentary elites in multi-layered states. Jens Borchert (2011) identified three career models in these contexts : the unidirectional (from the local to the regional and then to the national level), the alternative (the existence of two distinct political arenas where politicians can make their career), and the integrated models (return to local level after a career at the national level). According to Stolz (2003), the unidirectional pattern is predominant in Switzerland where the political careers, more than in other federal countries (i.e. Australia, Austria, Canada, West Germany and the United States), are highly integrated and hierarchically directed toward the centre. According to this “classic” career model, a member of the Federal Parliament climbs step by step the ladder of politics from the local to the national level (i.e. cursus honorum), often combined with multiple office holding at the cantonal or communal level. However, because of increasing professionalization of the Swiss Parliament, mediatization and personalization of Swiss politics since the 1990s, this traditional career pattern seems to have profoundly changed. In our paper, we test if the career model of the Swiss MPs has changed over time. More precisely, we address the four main questions: 1.) To what extent does the unidirectional career model remain deep-rooted among the Swiss MPs? 2.) Are integrated career models also emerging in Switzerland? 3.) Is there a greater presence of outsiders, namely without any previous political experience, among the Swiss MPs in the context of increasing mediatization and personalization of Swiss politics? 4.) To what extent do these career models vary in terms of party, gender, and professional background? Our analysis is based on political career data regarding around 1’000 Swiss MPs, subdivided in four cohorts from the late 1950s to 2016.
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