Politics of Switzerland

From Academic Kids

Template:Politics of Switzerland Switzerland is a federal republic, and perhaps the closest state in the world to a direct democracy. 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 have the last word in every change of law some interest group disagrees with.

Contents

Executive branch

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Curia_Confoederationis_Heleticae_-_Swiss_parliament_and_government.jpg
Curia Confoederationis Helveticae - Swiss parliament and government in Bern

The Swiss Federal Council is a seven-member executive council ("cabinet") that heads the executive branch. It is elected by the Federal Assembly for a four-year term. Present members are: Joseph Deiss, Samuel Schmid, Micheline Calmy-Rey, Pascal Couchepin, Christoph Blocher, Hans-Rudolf Merz and Moritz Leuenberger. See also: List of members of the Swiss Federal Council.

The largely ceremonial President of the Confederation and Vice-President are elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for one-year terms that run concurrently. The current (2005) President and Vice President are Samuel Schmid and Moritz Leuenberger, respectively.

The Swiss executive 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 Free Democratic Party, 2 Social Democratic, 2 Christian Democratic, and 1 Swiss People's Party. Changes in the council occur 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 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 Council of States (46 seats - members serve four-year terms) and
  • the National Council (members are elected by popular vote on a basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)

These two chambers together are refered to as the Federal Assembly.

The last elections to the National Council were held in 2003, see elections of 2003 for more details.

Most hearings in the parliament are open to everyone, including foreigners.

Judicial branch

Switzerland has a Federal Supreme Court, with 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 some 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 put a strain on the "magic formula," the power-broking agreement of the four coalition parties. Since 1959 the seven-seat cabinet had comprised 2 Free Democrats, 2 Christian Democrats, 2 Social Democrats, and 1 Swiss People's Party, but in 2004, the Swiss People's Party took one seat from the Christian Democrats.

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, health, energy, the environment, organized crime, and narcotics.

Political parties

Switzerland has a rich party landscape. The four parties represented in the Federal Council are generally called the government parties: Free Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party, Christian Democratic Party, and Swiss People's Party.

As of 2005 only the four government parties were represented in the Council of States. In the National Council the party landscape is more diverse with eight non-government parties having at least one seat.

See: List of political parties in Switzerland

External links

See also

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