Do you know who the President of Switzerland is? You’ll find the short and the long answer below!
A Voting People
Switzerland is as close as you get to a direct democracy. In a year, citizens vote “as many times as necessary” (source: my hubby). Here I could get in to talk of referendums, amendments, initiatives, elections… but we have more to talk about than that today! Suffice it to say that whenever there is a change to be made, Swiss people give their two cents.
As I mentioned on L day, when foreign policy issues are on the docket, the Swiss Germans vote conservatively as opposed to the more liberal Swiss French. But there is more to this than cultural differences. Enter: political parties, of which there are many.
There are currently 5 political parties represented on the Federal Council (more on FC later). These are therefore considered the main political parties:
Swiss People’s Party: Right-wing, they stand for national conservatism. Sometimes their propaganda is downright racist.
Social Democratic Party: Left-wing, promoting none other than social democracy.
FDP The Liberals: Center-right, classical liberalism.
Christian Democratic People’s Party: Center.
Conservative Democratic Party: Center-right.
There are more parties with current representation solely in Parliament:
Green Party: Left-wing
Green Liberal Party: Center
Evangelical People’s Party: Center
Christian Social Party: Center-left
Ticino League: Right-wing
There are even more that don’t currently have representation, but let’s not get in to those. …See, I told you there were a lot! Despite this vast array of choices, citizens are not required to vote according to party lines.
Without getting into too much detail, let’s look at the other bodies in Swiss government.
The Legislative Branch
Parliament is made up of two houses:
The National Council, the lower and larger house, is made of up Councillors elected by the people. Each canton is allowed a number of representatives according to its population. There are 200 total seats in the NC. Each Councillor serves a renewable 4-year term.
The Council of States, considered the upper house, consists of 2 Councillors from each canton (or 1 from each half-canton). There are a total of 46 members of the CS. Each Councillor serves a renewable 4-year term.
One of the main jobs of these two houses is to take what the citizens vote for and make it a reality.
The Executive Branch
Who is the President of Switzerland? The easy answer would be, “This year, it’s Didier Burkhalter.”
But, friends, the answer is so much more complex than that. The governing body of Switzerland is actually the Federal Council, a group of 7 Councillors. Each Councillor serves a renewable 4-year term and has a particular function (serving as the head of a particular department such as finance, foreign affairs, justice, etc.).
Every year, the NC elects one of these seven to be the president just for that year. The President’s role is to preside over meetings and represent Switzerland during official visits abroad. Other than that, he is seen simply as the first among equals and doesn’t have any individual power over the FC.