Michèle Blöchliger, Nidwaldner government councilor, wants to represent the SVP in the Federal Council.
Monday at half past ten in the Engel restaurant in Stans NW. At the regulars’ table, in front of an Eichhof Herrgöttli, are three from an otherwise large group: Fridel, Walti and René. Retired men, camera shy but open to discussions. Within five minutes they find a solution to deals that the government spends hours chewing through. They do not agree on one woman: Michèle Blöchliger (55), Nidwaldner SVP candidate for the Federal Council, former head of health for the canton.
Fridel: «I think it’s good that she’s running. She’s a pleasant froi.”
Walti: “Okay, but it’s probably not enough for Bern.”
Fridel: «If you ask me, she’s one of the better government councillors. Corona has mastered them very well. »
René: «But now she should have been honest from the start. A big mistake.”
Fridel: “You quickly say something, you don’t have to make a big deal out of it now.”
The regulars’ table is in the Engel restaurant.
Nidwalden has never provided a Federal Councilor
In mid-October, Michèle Blöchliger (55) announced her candidacy. At the time she said she no longer had a British passport. Even if it says so on Wikipedia. Then she had to admit: she still has British citizenship. Shortly thereafter, it also came out that she and her husband are involved in a company that sells an esoteric patch. Criticism rained down. Blöchliger now says about the citizenship issue: “That was a false statement, I stand by it.” She is an honest person. Received a lot of encouragement after the negative press. She says: “I still feel supported by the population.” And sticks to her candidacy.
The Federal Council candidate: Michèle Blöchliger.
Stans is the capital of the canton of Nidwalden, which the rest of Switzerland does not know – except perhaps as a low-tax paradise, home of the Pilatus works and of ski racer Marco Odermatt (25). How does this canton with its 44,000 inhabitants tick, which has never had a Federal Councilor? We met a former Green Party politician and historian and a Treichler who maintains an old local custom – just like the regulars’ table.
In the angel you say what you think. Fridel thinks like this: “We Nidwaldner are critical people.” You don’t just say yes to everything. One who can explain this is Peter Steiner (71). A veteran. He used to be a member of the Stans government for the Greens and has co-authored two volumes on the history of the canton. He says: “The Nidwalden are open people, but they had to work for it.”
The veteran: Peter Steiner.
Complicated relationship with the state
We stand with him on the large village square. In front of us the “good Noldi”, as Steiner says. And means the Winkelried monument. It shows Arnold Winkelried from Nidwalden, a mythical figure who throws himself into the hail of spears of the enemy Habsburgs in the Battle of Sempach in 1386. And that opens a path for the Confederates, through which they win. The memorial is a gift from the Confederation to Nidwalden. Steiner says: “The Confederation wanted to show the people of Nidwald: We belong together, we have a common history.”
That was sorely needed. If you had to specify a relationship status for Nidwalden and Switzerland, it would be this: complicated. The founding canton of Urschweiz often said no to what came from above: 1798 the constitution of Napoleon’s Helvetic Republic, 1815 the federal treaty, 1848 the first federal constitution and 1874 its revision.
Similarly the Knorz with the neighbor Obwalden. Only the core forest separates the two cantons, but like a green ditch. Deepened by an event: the French campaign in Nidwalden in 1798, a massacre. The question of guilt is part of the trauma. In Nidwalden they say: the people of Obwalden voluntarily showed the French the way so that they could burn and rape women. One thing is certain: a few people from Obwalden were forced to do it. But the legend is still having an impact today. René from the regulars’ table says: “It’s still a love-hate relationship.”
The historian Steiner says: “The canton has left the old stories behind.” Be open to new things. Tolerant of others. He takes Blöchliger as an example. She grew up in Basel-Stadt and came to Nidwalden in 1991. Has kept the dialect. Steiner says: “It was never a problem, she was able to make a career.”
He lives a Nidwaldner cultural asset
Steiner and Blöchliger have known each other for years. The social network in the small canton is dense. This is also shown by the last meeting at a forester’s house high above Stans, with Marc Hasler (38). He is active in the same fire department as Steiner’s daughter. Has now brought a “Treychel” with him, takes it between his legs and hits it once. That’s how it should sound: “täif” – deep.
The teaser: Marc Hasler.
A gold ring with the canton’s coat of arms dangles from Hasler’s earlobe. Hasler stands for a different Nidwalden than Steiner. A traditional one that maintains its customs. He is an honorary member of the Eichhor Treychler. Their task: “We ring the way for Samichlais.” Treichler are part of an old Nidwalden cultural asset: Every year in the run-up to Christmas, the “Samichlais” makes its way through the villages. Hundreds of teasers accompany him. The whole village joins in. A folk festival.
As a boy, Hasler walked through Stans with a bell. Learned early on: “Your appearance has to be right.” The rhythm of the chiming of the bells while walking, all in the same beat if possible. Not everyone can do that. It takes tact. He says: “You can’t practice it.” You saw that in the Corona protests, where tact obviously didn’t matter. Hasler doesn’t want to judge it, but he wants to set himself apart: He has nothing to do with the teasers there. It’s not just for fun for him. “We live the Treychlen.”