Edit: Luckily Aeschi did not get elected. The Swiss parliament elected fellow SVP member Guy Parmelin for the vacant seat in the federal council. Aeschi still received way too many votes, 88 in then 3rd round, but Parmelin was able to beat him. Parmelin is in most issues no different than Aeschi, just another xenophobic nationalist/populist, but at least he did not mock rape drugs.
The short version: The Swiss people’s party (SVP) has nominated Thomas Aeschi for federal council, which means rape culture might soon be represented at the very top level of Swiss government. Aeschi was featured this last summer in a campaign video of his party, the much discussed scene showed him mocking GHB, the known rape drug. When asked in an interview, if he would do this again, he asserted yes.
This shameful story needs to spread internationally. So I am writing it down in English, in the desperate hope of achieving this. I am neither an expert in politics, nor am I journalist. I am just an old school blogger, who’s writing style is not great, to say it nicely, and who by now very rarely even posts anything. I tried my best to get all the facts right. Should anyone decide to pick this story up, please fact check. And feel free to contact me to provide you with more links and details.
The long version:
First, I will need to make a brief introduction to explain Swiss politics. If you are familiar with this skip ahead to “Still with me?”.
Switzerland is governed legislatively by a parliament consisting of two chambers, the national council and the council of states. The national council has 200 members, elected proportionally by population of cantons (states), the council of states with its total of 46 members, holds 2 members per canton (1 per half canton, yup, that’s a thing).
The executive is called the federal council and consists of 7 members, the president changes yearly, seniority the deciding factor. This presidential position does not mean very much in home affairs, and only slightly more in foreign affairs.
Every four years in the fall Switzerland holds general elections where both chambers of parliament are elected or re-elected. After forming early December on the 9. the joint parliament consisting of both chambers will elect the federal council. http://www.parlament.ch/d/wahlen-abstimmungen/wahlen-im-parlament/bundesratswahlen/seiten/default.aspx
Since 1959 the federal council gets elected by a mutual agreement named Zauberformel, which translates as “magic formula”. It means that the four strongest political parties in the country each get seats in the federal council, the 3 strongest parties 2 seats each, while the forth party gets one. Since 2003 this has always been a tricky negotiation, because it is meant to keep power in balance (how very typically Swiss), and since the two chambers have very different proportional strengths of political parties, there have been changes and negotiations every four years.
On October 18. 2015 Switzerland held the elections for parliament. The right wing won in a sweeping victory, with the far right, populist xenophobic party Swiss People’s Party (SVP) reaching almost 30% of the seats in the national council. In the other chamber things are less clear, Christian Democratic People’s Party (CVP) and Liberals (FDP) are usually strong there, plus some seats are still being decided this weekend in second rounds. The second strongest party on the whole are the Socialdemocrats (SP).
Since the election victory SVP has been demanding a second seat in the federal council. Because 8 years ago there had been a small “coup”, when federal councilor Christoph Blocher, who is the de facto leader, chief ideologue and financier of the SVP, was voted out and replaced by Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. She was a member of the SVP at the time, but the left and middle parties had voted her in, mostly because Blocher had been impossible to work with as a federal councilor. This did not sit right with the SVP who immediately excluded Widmer-Schlumpf from their party. Soon after a split happened in the party, which is another long (interesting) story but not relevant now. In the 2015 elections the newly formed political party around Widmer-Schlumpf was one of the clear losers, and she has since declared that she will step down.
Everything seems open for that second seat for the SVP, and so everyone was speculating, who the SVP would nominate.
Still with me?
Good. But, oh well, I need to make another short excursion.
We now need to go back in time to December 2014. Yolanda Spiess-Hegglin and Markus Hürlimann, two regional politicians in the small canton Zug (state-level), had sex after a drunken party. Spiess is an upcoming green politicians, the man a member of the SVP. Spiess woke up the next morning in pain, went to the hospital, and quickly it was clear to her that she must have been drugged by Hürlimann, possibly using GHB – in this country these are commonly called K.o.-Tropfen, Knockout-drops – and that the sex had not been consensual. Rape actually. Since rape is a felony in Switzerland the hospital reported this to the police, but the hospital made some very important procedural mistakes. The story was immediately leaked to the press, it created a huge stink, with lots of victim blaming and the dispute turned extremely public and ugly. In August a judge threw the case out, reason: lack of evidence. The woman to this day insists that she was raped. The case is still discussed very controversially. (My personal opinion, I believe her).
Further reading: this article asking some tough questions appeared on vice switzerland, but was withdrawn a few days later, supposedly after Hürlimann’s lawyers protested.
And so here finally is the actual story I meant to tell, phew.
This past election cycle the SVP with their unusually large advertising budget produced a video, and please don’t click this link lightly, I really don’t recommend it (at least if you don’t want eye cancer ;)). It’s a terrible video. You might spot: a girl dancing around wearing an 88 shirt (pure coincidence, yes yes, I know…); the unofficial party leader Blocher in a bathing suit; rising intellectual leader Köppel sitting on the toilet while reading left-wing newspaper Wochenzeitung (I never understood this part, because I always read my BEST stuff while on the toilet).
But then there is one scene, starting 1:48 into the video, that shows the young politician Thomas Aeschi (36). Aeschi is from the same canton Zug, remember, same as the two involved in the sex scandal mentioned above, and this is his scene: Aeschi is sitting at a table with large bottle of Zuger Kirsch (a local specialty), he drinks a shot, and then his head falls down on the table, next to a small bottle. On the small bottle a hand written label says K.o.-Tropfen, knockout drops, usually refers to the rape drug GHB. Clearly this is a piss take on the sex affair.
The entire video has a mocking tone. It is desperately trying to be hip, to maybe appeal to the young? Actually, I have no idea what they were thinking. It’s a super lame video, I am exceedingly sorry I had to bring it up, to even link to it.
But this one part, an elected politicians openly mocking an alleged rape case, and rape drugs, was way over the line and caused quite a controversy. While the context is clear, we get it, canton Zug and that sex scandal, it still shows an elected politician stupidly making fun of a very serious topic. This is victim blaming taken to the next level. It says, oh she was just drunk and she was asking for it.
The SVP still won the elections (despite or because of this video? we shall never know). And as I mentioned, there has been lots of talk and speculation in the media and everywhere else, who the SVP might nominate for their second seat in the federal council. Not many candidates seemed suitable, since most of them are too busy playing their bizarre majority-party-in-the-opposition game. Blame the magic formula.
Yesterday, November 19. the SVP announced their ticket, it consists of three men (!) – even though it is a woman stepping down. There is one candidate each for the three main language regions. The francophone and Ticinese (the Italian part of Switzerland) candidate can safely be ignored, they both stand very slim chances of getting elected. So every one was curious who would be the Swiss-German candidate.
And so the Swiss-German candidate is … you guessed it … Thomas Aeschi.
Yup Thomas Aeschi, off rape drug mocking fame, will in all likelihood get elected on December 9. by the joint parliaments to be Switzerland’s newest federal councilor. And this is an absolute outrage. It means that rape-culture might soon reach the highest level of politics in Switzerland.
Edit: In an interview with Swiss newspaper Blick published this last Sunday, November 28. Aeschi was asked if he would repeat his “joke”. To which he answered, yes.
Im Wahlkampf machten Sie sich in einem SVP-Spot über Frau Spiess-Hegglin lustig. Würden Sie das heute wieder tun?
Ja. Von den falschen Beschuldigungen und dem Vorwurf von K.-o.-Tropfen blieb im Rahmen der Strafuntersuchung nichts übrig.