Operation Valmy

How does a "presidential" campaign look like in Switzerland?

Operation Valmy is the name of the campaign led by Federal Council candidate Pierre Maudet. A name taken from the battle that took place on September 20th, the same day as the Federal election.

Switzerland doesn't have one president. It has seven! The Federal Council is composed of seven ministers representing the main political forces. Together, they embody the executive power. Every year, one of them bears the role of "president": a function that gives no more powers and is mostly aimed at international meetings. Another specificity: Swiss don't elect their government. It's the two parliamentary chambers who choses them.

Because of that, strategies at stake to get to the highest level of power in Switzerland changes significantly from countries where the government is elected by the people.

A candidate doesn't need a massive support from the population but he needs to federate all the different political movements: opposed parties, but also interest groups capable of influencing politicians such as the farmers and economic organizations.

Election to the Federal Council is usually compared to the one of a pope: full of secrecy, self-segregation (parliamentary members favoring their peers over outsiders) and some obscure strategies. I wanted to verify this by intimately observing one of these campaigns and documenting the mechanisms at stake. Pierre Maudet and his team let me document every steps of his campaign. 

Read more below about the journalistic methodology behind this project. 

 

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Behind Operation Valmy

Operation Valmy is a self-funded personal project. No censorship was exerted by Mr. Maudet or his team and the only limits that we aggreed upon were the following:

  • In order not to interfere with the campaign, none of the images would be published before the election.
  • Every element revealing names, confidential agreements or discussions with parliament members or heads of groups were altered in order to protect the confidentiality of third parties while still depicting the mechanisms.

No financial or material help (housing, food, transportation*) was given by Mr. Maudet or his team in order to preserve a complete independence.

*some car travels with Mr. Maudet or his team were necessary to document the tour of the candidate around Switzerland.