Spring really arrived this Sunday in Valais. The sun was bright and the temperatures hovered around 20 degrees. But it is above all politically that Valais has experienced its renewal. On the evening of the second round of the election to the Council of State, the PDC lost the absolute majority it had held for more than 170 years in the cantonal executive. The Christian Democrats won only two of the five seats in government.
The mission to keep his three chairs was announced complicated from the start of the campaign for the PDC. With an electoral strength of around 35%, many observers saw a lack of respect in his appetite. The objective seemed to move away a little more after the loss of seven seats on the Grand Council and the fifth place of the neophyte Serge Gaudin, left behind by his running mates, in the first round. The mission became impossible with the danger looming over the second Haut-Valaisan siege.
The High votes as one man
The German-speaking part of the canton voted en masse for its two candidates, offering an insurmountable lead to outgoing PDC Roberto Schmidt and UDC national councilor Franz Ruppen, which allows his party to return to government, four years after the ouster of ‘Oskar Freysinger. “It was not a vote against the PDC, but for Haut-Valais”, proclaims Aron Pfammatter, group leader of the Upper Valais PDC in parliament, who nevertheless admits that many German-speaking Christian Democrats did not play the party game.
The Valais Romand, him, acclaimed the national councilor Mathias Reynard, who becomes the first socialist of the French-speaking part of the canton to sit on the executive, and the outgoing liberal-radical, Frédéric Favre. “This vote represents the people of Valais, there is nothing anti-PDC. If the Christian Democrats are on the losing side, the people of Valais are the big winners. Each party is represented in the normal way on the cantonal executive ”, rejoices Florian Piasenta, president of the PLR Valais.
The fifth man of this new all-male Council of State, the current PDC president of the Valais Council of State, Christophe Darbellay, was elected by the Constitution, as the only candidate from Bas-Valais. But his score is still synonymous with sanction. The former president of the Swiss PDC finished fifth and last elected, with 12,500 votes less than in the first round. “I’ve been used to great scores in my career, but I can live with this result,” he commented.
At the PDC, time for introspection
Christophe Darbellay recognizes however that the defeat of his party, with the non-election of his running mate Serge Gaudin, “hurts” and generates, de facto, the need for reflection for the future. “We must now conduct a fundamental reflection. There are real questions to ask ourselves about the organization of our party in particular, but also about ways to mobilize this new electorate or to talk to it, ”he underlines.
His party, the PDC of Valais Romand, agrees with this. “The end of the absolute majority of the PDC in the Council of State is not synonymous with the end of Christian democracy in Valais. But now is the time for introspection. We must find the keys to avoid falling lower. We are going to get to work in this direction, knowing that the future of our party depends in particular on women and young people ”, supports President Joachim Rausis.
“Is the PDC even capable of questioning itself?”
For the president of the PS of Valais Romand, Barbara Lanthemann, the PDC has an interest in renewing itself by opting for a path closer to the center. “He has everything to gain by truly taking on the role of bridge builder that he keeps talking about. And that means getting rid of your elephants, those former elected officials of the party that everyone listened to ten years ago, but not today. But is the PDC even capable of questioning itself? ” she asks.
The defeat of this Sunday shines the spotlight on a reality that the party preferred to ignore until now: the Valais but also its electorate are evolving. For the first time, the PDC failed to mobilize its base as it did in the past, especially in autumn 2019 to save its two seats on the Council of States. “People no longer find themselves in this system, which feeds on the way. And this, all the more so in this period of health crisis that we are living in and which puts a section of the population in the face of great difficulties. Somehow, the Covid-19 has accelerated the process and saved us four or eight years, ”analyzes Cyrille Fauchère. The president of the UDC of Valais Romand sees in this Sunday of March 2021 “a victory which is historic and which will remain so. That has no price.”