Switzerland Government and Politics

State and politics

According to AllCityCodes.com, the Swiss Federal Constitution was adopted in 1848. After modernization, but without more significant changes to the federal system, the current Constitution was adopted in 1999.

Switzerland Country Flag

Reference: Switzerland Flag Meaning


The state of the state has historically been strongly influenced by direct democratic elements (referendums and decision-making major meetings) and decentralization of decisions from central to local level. However, during the post-war period, despite the opposition from municipalities and cantons, the influence of the central institutions increased.

At the federal level, the legislative power is held by a two-chamber parliament, the Federal Assembly (German Bundesversammlung, French Assemblée fédérale), where the Standing Council (German Ständerat, French Conseil des États) has 46 members (two representatives from each of the 20 full cantons and one of the six half-cantons) and the National Council (German National Council, French Conseil national) 200 members who are elected proportionally to the population of the cantons in general elections for a four-year term. Parliament cannot be dissolved prematurely.

The executive power is exercised by a government, the Federal Council (German Bundesrat, French Conseil fédéral), with seven ministers. The composition means that the Federal Council is a form of the coalition government where the distribution of ministerial posts takes place according to agreement between the largest parties in the Federal Assembly. The government’s composition will ensure a balance between the country’s regions and language groups. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of SZ and its meanings of Switzerland.

The French and Italian-speaking cantons are entitled to two ministerial posts, while the others can be occupied by representatives of the German-speaking. The Federal Council may not contain more than one minister from one of the cantons. The Federal Assembly appoints one of the ministers to be president. The term of office is one year and in addition to his regular ministerial duties, the President is to fulfill a number of representative functions for the State of Switzerland and be chairman of the Federal Council.

The cantons have their own regulations. They also elect their own parliaments, for which each cantonal government is responsible. Each of the cantons applies their own electoral system and their own laws regarding taxes, health care, as well as social and school services. The approximately 3,000 municipalities have a relatively high degree of self-government.

Electoral Systems

All citizens over the age of 18 are entitled to vote, but only as late as 1990 and after the intervention of the Supreme Court, the women in the canton of Appenzell-Innerrhoden gained voting rights. The turnout in national elections is relatively low. In the election to the federal assembly in 2015, only 48 percent of those entitled to vote voted. Although the work of the representative democratic bodies has increased in importance, two cantons still hold annual major meetings where residents can directly influence the decisions. Democracy in Switzerland is often associated with referendums based on citizens’ constitutional rights (German: Volkrechte, French: droits civiques). These are mandatory in constitutional matters and are used in a large number of other issues, both at the federal and the cantonal and municipal levels. The outcome of a referendum can nullify previous parliamentary decisions and federal laws may be rejected. In 2014, 12 referendums were held at the federal level. At the canton and municipal level, the number varies greatly. Participation in referendums has been around 40 percent in recent years.

Political parties

Party politics in Switzerland was dominated by four major parties during the second half of the 20th century. In the 2000s, however, new parties have taken a place in Swiss politics. Because the permanent coalition government usually takes a united front outward, the party political contradictions do not appear as clearly as in other countries.

However, since the 1980s, the contradictions have increased, mainly because of an intense debate on immigration and asylum issues, as well as the relationship with the EU. In Parliament, the work of the committee plays an important role in reaching compromises. The majority coalitions change depending on the issue and there is no clear block policy.

The Liberal Democratic Party (Freisinnig Demokratische Partei, FDP) is a liberal party that was at the forefront of the movement that created the current covenant system. The party has a center-right profile in financial matters and is limited in public undertakings. The Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei/ Parti socialiste, SP) has a program similar to many other European Social Democratic parties. SP advocates an expanded welfare policy, far-reaching environmental legislation and is for membership in the EU. Christian Democratic People’s Party (Christian Democratic People’s Party/Democrat-Cretin Party(CVP) is a center-right party that stands for a social reform policy built on a Christian foundation and opposed to increased federalization. The Swiss People’s Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei/Union démocratique du Center, SVP) is a right-wing populist party that is opposed to immigration and EU membership and to reduced public commitments.

In the election to the Federal Assembly in 2003, SVP became the largest party and demanded a change in the distribution of ministerial posts between the major parties. Since the Christian Democrats have strongly declined in the voter opinion, the party had to hand over one of its ministerial posts to the SVP. The new reign came to be characterized by internal struggles within the government and between the parties. SVP was successful with its immigration and asylum policy and in a 2006 referendum supported a new more restrictive asylum law.

In the election to the Federal Assembly in 2007, SVP again became the largest party, but with lower voter support than 2003. When the Federal Assembly elected ministers in the government, SVP’s high-voting leader Christoph Blocher was not re-elected. The reason for this was that many MPs were tired of Blocher’s challenging actions. SVP’s management reacted strongly to the decision and left the government. However, two SVP representatives chose to accept Parliament’s ministerial appointment. One effect of this was that the SVP split and the new center-right party (Bürgerlich-Demokratische Partei/Parti bourgeois démocratique, BDP) was formed in 2008.

Two green parties, one left (Grüne Partei/Les verts, GPS) and one liberal (Grünliberale Partei/Parti vert’libéral, GLP), also belong to the larger parties. In addition, in 2015, three parties received sufficient voter support to obtain a mandate from the National Council. At the canton and municipal level there are also a number of smaller parties.


In the election to the Federal Assembly in 2015, right-wing nationalist SVPs had strong success, while SP, the two green parties and the right-center-oriented BDP had a clear setback.

The remaining 6 seats in the National Council were divided into five smaller parties, among which there is a Protestant Christian party (2 seats). In the election to the 46 council seats, a second round of elections must be taken in twelve of the 26 cantons, which delayed the overall election result by just over a month. When the election result was available, it did not show the same right turn as in the election to the Federal Assembly.

The electoral system used – majority voting, that is, strong voter turnout – in one or two-person circles in 24 of the 26 cantons is considered in post-election comments to be a likely explanation for why SVP did not achieve as much success in this election.

In December 2015 Parliament stated that during the next term of office, the government will consist of 2 representatives each for SVP, SPS and FDP and 1 representative for CVP. BDP lost its place and SVP thus managed to regain control of a second place in the government. As President in 2016, Minister of Industry, Education and Research was elected Johann Schneider – Ammann (FDP).

In the subsequent elections in 2019, SVP became, like 2015, the largest party, but with slightly reduced support compared to the previous election. The anti-immigrant party thus retains power for a further term of office. The two green parties The Green and Green Liberal Party went ahead and more or less doubled the support from the previous elections when the Green had 6 percent and the Green Liberal Party 4 percent. The increased support for the green parties can be explained by a further focus on the climate issue, which in Switzerland has manifested itself in a drastic melting of the country’s glaciers.

Political main features


Foreign policy, in many eyes, Switzerland has a special position because of its treaty neutrality. The strict application of this policy has led to Switzerland not being a member of any international body of supranational nature (with the exception of the UN since 10 September 2002). Several UN trade unions have their headquarters in the country.

Bank secrecy

Switzerland has far-reaching banking secrecy, but it has been subject to ever-increasing pressure from other countries’ governments and the country has had to agree to certain concessions regarding information on Swiss bank accounts. Among the right parties, however, there is strong opposition to accepting further unlocking of banking secrecy.

The EU

The EU issue has for a long time been a combustible domestic policy issue. EU resistance is strongest among farmers, although Swiss agriculture is one of the world’s most subsidized. The government has maintained that a rapprochement with the EU is inevitable and a membership application from 1992 is still pending the public opinion. Switzerland and the EU have negotiated an agreement on cooperation in a number of areas. Relations with the EU are of great importance as the EU is the country’s main trading partner. Most parties are in favor of deepening relations with the EU, but in public opinion, and also within the SVP, there is considerable opposition to EU membership.

Immigrant and asylum policy

In recent decades, stricter legislation in the area of immigration and asylum policy has attracted international criticism. Despite this, in 2012, even stricter asylum laws were passed, which were approved in a 2013 referendum.

Another referendum on the country’s immigration policy was held in early February 2014. The question asked was whether quotas should be set for migrants from EU member states. The result was that the yes side won by a small margin, 50.3 percent, which resulted in the EU’s view that Switzerland had breached signed agreements on the free movement of people. However, under severe external pressure, the government in 2015 agreed to participate in the EU’s rapidly developing quota refugee distribution program as defined by the UN.

In the electoral movement ahead of the 2015 parliamentary elections, immigration policy, and especially the question of how many quota refugees Switzerland would receive, played a key role again. That the resistance to increasing immigration is large was clearly reflected in the success of the strongly anti-immigrant party SVP.


The judicial system in Switzerland consists mainly of cantonal courts, whose organization and procedural rules differ from canton to canton. Only the country’s highest court in the Federal Court (German Bundesgericht, French Tribunal fédéral) in Lausanne works under federal auspices.

The substantive legal rules also consist of both cantonal and federal law, but the cantonal rules must never conflict with federal law. The legal order is mainly codified, including a federal civil law, a federal bond law and a federal criminal law. The death penalty was abolished in 1992; the last execution took place in 1944.

Switzerland Head of Government

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