Family happiness: Grünenfelder appears with his wife Christa Markwalder and baby Luca in the “Schweizer Illustrierte” and on his website.
Reza RafiDeputy Editor-in-Chief SonntagsBlick
Zurich is Switzerland in a magnifying glass.
When the canton changes the government and parliament on February 12, this will send out a signal for the federal elections in autumn. The general political climate would be favorable for the bourgeoisie: the security debate is supplanting ecological issues, the SP Switzerland is in a low form.
But in the camp of the SVP, FDP and Mitte, some frowns deepen when there is talk of a bourgeois solidarity. Quite a few even fear losing a seat in government to the Social Democrats. One name keeps ringing out: Peter Grünenfelder.
“Friendly Fire” against Silvia Steiner
The 55-year-old director of the think tank Avenir Suisse and a doctorate in business administration wants to go into government for the FDP. He runs a fairly aggressive, American-style election campaign that is atypical for Switzerland: it includes plastering advertisements, risking his own family happiness and sharp attacks on the competition. Malicious tongues speak of “negative campaigning”, which those responsible vehemently deny.
He himself emphasizes: “I never aimed at the person, I’m concerned with the matter.” He sees it the other way around: “The more content I argue, the more people aim at my person.”
Not all participants saw it that way. Education Director Silvia Steiner (64) had to endure his “Friendly Fire”. “Grüni” constantly shoots at the school system, which is “too busy with itself”, the “complexity in the classroom” and the “inadequate and extremely expensive” integrative school.
Zurich economic policy in the barrage
Perhaps this barrage is one reason why the center politician has to tremble for her office, according to polls, and why left-wing Priska Seiler Graf (54) could benefit. The challenger replies that it was never about an attack on Steiner, “I criticize left-wing school politics”.
Grünenfelder unleashed at least as much trouble with his attacks on economic policy. “The canton of Zurich is a canton of emigrants for companies,” he once tweeted, and now the “homemade problems” have to be solved. In general, there is too much regulatory thicket. The dossier is in the hands of Carmen Walker Späh (64), Grünenfelder’s liberal party and campaign colleague.
“The more content I argue, the more people aim at my person.”Peter Grünenfelder, FDP government candidate
You can guess the reactions in your own ranks. The “NZZ am Sonntag” quoted anonymous people who complain about the “nest soiling”.
The addressee is all the more lovely with his wife Christa Markwalder (47), who is otherwise not too enthusiastic about the media, and child Michel Luca on six pages in the “Schweizer Illustrierte” (“He is the dearest baby”).
The campaign is said to cost CHF 300,000
Patrick Marty from the Zurich agency CRK is behind Grünenfelder’s campaign. The company also oversees Walker Spaeh’s election campaign. In 2017, Marty told the industry portal “Personal”: “CRK is able to cover the entire digital but also analogue customer journey. This is how we motivate people to make a desired decision – be it a purchase, attending a conference or voting.”
Compared to SonntagsBlick, the consultant denies that “hard campaigning” is part of his repertoire. Marty says: “Peter Grünenfelder’s campaign is rich in content, it moves, creates attention and sets topics.” You have to give him credit for enriching the debate with his ten-point program for the canton.
It all costs. The candidate has disclosed the figure of 300,000 francs. Insiders estimate the total cost at half a million, which Grünenfelder’s camp denies. What is certain is that a whole crowd of professionals will be involved. The actual campaign manager is Deloitte consultant Andreas Hammer (53), former managing director of the cantonal FDP. The former FDP campaign manager Marcel Schuler (34) with his company Campaigneers is responsible for the social media presence (“56 votes, 48 victories, 9 election campaigns”).
“His campaign sets topics.”PR consultant Patrick Marty
But his lateral entry into politics has other parents. Flashback to 2019: FDP National Councilor Doris Fiala (65) organized an event for the framework agreement with the EU (“Fly the flag in favor of Switzerland”) on March 8 in the “Metropol” not far from Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse. She also invited Grünenfelder as a speaker. He passionately pleaded for overcoming “thinking blocks” and for a further development of relations with Brussels.
The Europe theme has disappeared
Fiala was one of his patrons. Within the EU-friendly FDP wing, they began to push him, also as a counterweight to current party president Thierry Burkart (47), who acted against “Insta”. Grünenfelder’s wife Christa Markwalder also played a role. The National Councilor is one of the most ardent Euroturbos in the Freisinn.
An influential circle of supporters began to form behind the scenes in Zurich, which aligned everything towards the cantonal FDP party conference on February 8, 2022, when the delegates nominated their government candidate to stand alongside Walker Späh. In a coup, the newcomer managed to get the newcomer on the ticket in the first ballot against the Küsnacht municipal president, who had done the slog in the party. Fiala also stood up and made a spirited speech for the lithe think-tank boss.
Grünenfelder’s audience doesn’t hear much about Europe these days. Instead, he showed up at the Albisgüetli conference of the Zurich SVP the week before last and has been proudly spreading Christoph Blocher’s (82) election recommendation for him ever since. Ironically enough, Fiala is missing from his supporters’ committee.
Grünenfelder has one point when he complains that the behavior of the incumbents borders on an election campaign boycott: “The previous ones negate the obvious problems and challenges and refuse any serious discussion about the future.” On the other hand, he undoubtedly causes discussions.