Swarming with people when in session, lobbyists and PR hacks allowed through the doors of federal parliament often fly under the radar as they try to wield influence.
But two months ahead of parliamentary elections in October, questions are being raised about the independence of Switzerland’s politicians, and in particular the amount of power lobbyists and interest groups have on the way they cast their votes.
Essentially part-timers, Swiss parliamentarians are being called to vote on increasingly complicated issues that are often well outside their purview of local issues.
Lacking the time or resources to dig up information needed to cast an informed vote, lobbyists and interest groups have stepped into the void, according to professor Andreas Ladner of the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration.
“Politicians need information and they don’t have parties which are very strong and have lots of people working in different fields who can guide them,” Ladner told swissinfo.ch.
“So they have to turn towards people who know much more and usually these people have their [vested] interests.”
But many of the people thronging around parliament are not professional lobbyists, according to Fredy Müller, president of the Swiss Society for Public Affairs (SSPA), an umbrella group for lobbyists representing some 220 groups. Instead, many are company marketing people or are working for other interest groups.