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Politics of Switzerland

Switzerland is a federal republic, and perhaps the closest state in the world to a direct democracy, as for any change in the constitution, a referendum is mandatory; for any change in a law, a referendum can be requested - in practice, the people has the last word in every change of law some interest group disagrees with.

Table of contents
1 Executive branch
2 Legislative branch
3 Judicial branch
4 Political conditions
5 Political parties
6 External links

Executive branch

The current President of the Confederation is Joseph Deiss and his deputy is Samuel Schmid. The cabinet is the Swiss Federal Council, which is elected by the Federal Assembly from among its own members for a four-year term. Present members beside president and vice-president: Micheline Calmy-Rey, Pascal Couchepin, Christoph Blocher, Hans-Rudolf Merz and Moritz Leuenberger. See also: List of members of the Swiss Federal Council.

The president and vice president elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for one-year terms that run concurrently.

The Swiss cabinet is one of the most stable governments worldwide: From 1959 to 2003 the Federal Council was composed of a coalition of all major parties in the same ratio (2 Radical Free Party, 2 Social Democratic, 2 Christian Democratic, 1 Swiss People's Party). Changes in the cabinet occurred in practice only, if one of the members resigned - this member was then replaced by someone from the same party (and preferably also the same language group and sex).

This "magic formula" has also been criticised -- in the 1960s for excluding leftist opposition parties, in the 1980s for excluding the emerging Green party, and after the 1999 election particularly by the rightist People's Party, which had by then grown from the fourth largest to the largest party. In the elections of 2003 the People's Party (formerly the smallest of the 4 parties represented in the Federal Council) gained a plurality of seats in the National Council and received (effective January 1, 2004) a second seat in the Federal Council, reducing the share of the Christian Democratic party to 1 seat.

Legislative branch

Switzerland has a bicameral parliament, consisting of the The last elections to the National Council were held in 2003, see elections of 2003 for more details.

Judicial branch

Federal Supreme Court, judges elected for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly

Political conditions

Although it has a diverse society, Switzerland has a stable government. Most voters support the government in the armed neutrality underlying its foreign and defense policies. Domestic policy poses no major problems, but the changing international environment has generated a significant reexamination of Swiss policy in key areas such as defense, neutrality, and immigration. Quadrennial national elections typically produce only marginal changes in party representation.

In recent years, Switzerland has seen a gradual shift in the party landscape. The rightist Swiss People's Party (SVP), traditionally the junior partner in the four-party coalition government, more than doubled its voting share from 11.0% in 1987 to 22.5% in 1999, thus overtaking its three coalition partners. This shift in voting shares has put a strain on the "magic formula," the power-broking agreement of the four coalition parties (Since 1959 the seven-seat cabinet comprises 2 Free Democrats, 2 Christian Democrats, 2 Social Democrats, and 1 SVP). Recent cantonal elections results suggest that the SVP is likely to increase its voting share again in the 2003 federal elections, but it remains to be seen whether the magic formula will yield to accord it a second seat on the cabinet.

The Constitution limits federal influence in the formulation of domestic policy and emphasizes the roles of private enterprise and cantonal government. However, the Confederation has been compelled to enlarge its policymaking powers in recent years to cope with national problems such as education, agriculture, energy, environment, organized crime, and narcotics.

Political parties

Party Members in
AbbrNameW President F ¹S ²N ³

CVP/PDCChristian Democratic People's Party[1] Philipp Stähelin11528

FDP/PRDFree Democratic Party 4[1] Christiane Langenberger21436

SPS/PSSSocial Democratic Party[1] Christiane Brunner2952

SVP/UDCSwiss People's Party[1] Ueli Maurer2855

EVP/PEVEvangelical People's Party[1]Ruedi Aeschbacher003
FPSFreedom Party[1] 000
GreensGreen Party[1] Ruth Genner and
Patrice Mugny
LPS/PLSLiberal Party[1] Claude Ruey004
SD/DSSwiss Democratic Party  001
LegaTicino League[1] 001
EDU/UDFUnion of Federal Democrats  002
PdA/PSTWorkers' Party  002
Notes: ¹ Federal Council since 1959; ² Council of States, 2003; ³ National Council 2003 (members of party or
4 also rendered as: Radical Free Democratic Party or Liberal Democratic Party

Names in the national languages

AbbrPartyGerman language nameFrenchItalianRomansh

CVP/PDCChristian Democratic People's PartyChristlichdemokratische Volkspartei der Schweiz or CVPParti Démocrate-Chrétien Suisse or PDCPartito Democratico-Cristiano Popolare Svizzero or PDCPartida Cristiandemocratica dalla Svizra or PCD

FDP/PRDFree Democratic Party ¹Freisinnig-Demokratische Partei der Schweiz or FDPParti radical-démocratique suisse or PRDPartito Liberal-Radicale Svizzero or PLR 

SPS/PSSSocial Democratic PartySozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz or SPSParti Socialiste Suisse or PSSPartito Socialista Svizzero or PSSPartida Socialdemocratica de la Svizra or PSS

SVP/UDCSwiss People's PartySchweizerische Volkspartei or SVPUnion Démocratique du Centre or UDCUnione Democratica del Centro or UDCUniun Democratica dal Center or UDC

EVP/PEVEvangelical People's PartyEvangelische Volkspartei der Schweiz or EVPParti Evangelique Suisse or PEVPartito Evangelico Svizzero or PEV 
FPSFreedom PartyFreiheits-Partei der Schweiz or FPS   
GreensGreen PartyGrüne Partei der Schweiz or GrüneParti Ecologiste Suisse or Les VertsPartito Ecologista Svizzero or I Verdi Partida Ecologica Svizra or La Verda
LPS/PLSLiberal PartyLiberale Partei der Schweiz or LPSParti liberal suisse or PLSPartito Liberale Svizzero or PLS 
SD/DSSwiss Democratic PartySchweizer Demokraten or SDDémocrates Suisses or DSDemocratici Svizzeri or DS 
LegaTicino Leaguen/an/aLega dei Ticinesin/a
EDU/UDFUnion of Federal DemocratsEidgenössisch-Demokratische Union or EDUUnion Démocratique Fédérale or UDFUnione Democratica Federale or UDF 
PdA/PSTWorkers' PartyPartei der Arbeit der Schweiz or PdAdSParti suisse du travail or PSTPartito Svizzero del Lavoro or PSdL 
¹ also rendered as: Radical Free Democratic Party or Liberal Democratic Party

External links

See also : International relations of Switzerland, Switzerland