Guest contribution by Baschi Dürr


Guest contribution by Baschi Dürr: Let the Basler take away from the Glarnern

Former government councilor Baschi Dürr (FDP) on the loss of a seat in the National Council and the left.

Former government councilor Baschi Dürr.

Image: Roland Schmid

The local chauvinist complaints were and are great when it became official what has been known for years: Basel-Stadt will lose one of five seats in the National Council in the national elections in 2023 – to Zurich of all places! Indeed, the long-term development is particularly remarkable: in the 1960s, when the National Council grew to the current 200 members, Basel-Stadt sent eight national councilors to Bern. In other words, the canton’s relative weight in the Confederation has halved within just a few decades. This was immediately criticized as “unjust” and reference was made to the – strong and increased – economic strength and financial potential of Basel.

Various «solutions» are now making the rounds. Among other things, the social democratic Basel Council of States is demanding that Basel-Stadt get a second Council of States seat as compensation. This is to happen at the expense of Uri or Glarus, typically two “poor” cantons that are among the largest recipients of inter-cantonal financial equalization, while Basel-Stadt is one of the largest donors.

Even if this proposal is probably intended for the domestic audience and such an exchange of seats remains politically illusory, it is not a particularly friendly federal government to want to deprive others of a Council of States. Above all, however, this suggestion seems strange, not least from a left-wing look.

First of all, it is a widespread rule that the parliament is based on the size of the people. Basel-Stadt has lost its inhabitants for a long time, but it has recently been gaining again, albeit at a disproportionately low rate to the rapid population growth in Switzerland as a whole. This takes place where there is space – for example in the neighboring canton: Today, Basel-Landschaft sends seven instead of five representatives to the National Council, as in the 1960s, which means eleven seats instead of 13 for the two Basels together and, in turn, the relative loss of importance relativized. And it gets even more undramatic if you look at the Aargau, which expanded its seats from 13 to 16. After all, this canton also partly belongs to the greater Basel area and is a production site for the local pharmaceutical industry.

In short: if we look at our region as a whole, the National Council deputation is unlikely to have shrunk in the last few decades. And it is also and especially the left that often wants to think our country “bigger” and likes to criticize the “cantonal spirit”.

Second, there is a large portion of presumably unintentional irony in trying to combine political and economic weight. Otherwise, not even the most libertarian liberals dare to demand census suffrage, that is, to combine voting rights with financial strength. But yes, as in national financial equalization, it is often the wealthy few who have to be careful not to be excluded from the many others. The so-called 99 percent initiative shouts out this narrative: We are the great majority, let’s take it away from the few rich! Not even Uri and Glarus jump over to Basel-Stadt in such a brutal way in the national financial equalization scheme …

If you wanted to escape this “rich, but small” trap, you either worked to ensure that more remains in the cantons and regions. The left-wing pressure towards an increasingly centralized Switzerland is aiming in exactly the other direction. There is hardly a task that has not been entrusted to the federal government in the last few decades – right down to the core of federalism in general: tax and financial autonomy.

Or you get bigger, that is, you ensure population growth. Thirdly, that should mean that more could be built in Basel. This is particularly demanding in a city, but according to the principle of densification, it makes more ecological sense than constantly building over new landscapes. But here, too, left politics diligently ensures the opposite. With increasingly strict – supposed – tenant protection initiatives, investors are pissed off instead of attracted. Less and older living space does not necessarily mean that people migrate, but above all they do not mean that they migrate. It would be attractive for many to live in the city, as the market pressure, which is countered instead of yielded, impressively shows.

Basel could get bigger and stay richer. If we want to.

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