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Switzerland - Politics

Switzerland is a country that long ran on the basis of consensus. No Swiss government wouldagree to anything unless all the parties are on board. The Government doesn't like fighting with any segment of the economy. Once in the 1960s, Swiss President Celio introduced a rather inconsequential bill in Parliament. It was rejected by the Parliament, and he resigned on the ground that he had failed to consult adequately with all interested parties. The Parliament was very upset about it. They all rushed around and reached a compromise, and then the President withdrew his letter of resignation, and they enacted the bill. It just shows how strong this need of getting everybody on board was for the Swiss.

Switzerland has a stable government and a diverse society. Quadrennial national elections typically produce only marginal changes in party representation. Under an arrangement between the four major parties called the "magic formula" which was introduced in 1959 but ended in December 2003, two Federal Councilors (ministers) were elected each from the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, and the Free Democrats and one from the Swiss People's Party. Starting in 2004, the party composition of the cabinet changed as a consequence of parliamentary election results and other political factors. The current party composition of the cabinet is: two Social Democrats, two Free Democrats, one Christian Democrat, one representative of the Conservative Democratic Party, and one representative of the Swiss People's Party.

Subsequent to each parliamentary election, which is taking place every four years in October, the Federal Assembly meets in December in a joint session of both chambers to elect the Federal Council, the seven-member high executive body (government) of the Confederation. The Federal Council is composed of seven ministers known as Federal Councillors, each of which has equal power, and each of which is responsible for one government department.

The Federal Council was elected under an arrangement between the four major political parties called "magic formula" 2-2-2-1, which was introduced in 1959 but ended in 2003, and which distributed two cabinet seats each for the Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, and the Free Democrats and a single seat for the Swiss People's Party. As the distribution of cabinet seats is a reflection of the proportional strength of the main parties in parliament, the growing strength of the Swiss People's Party in the past two parliaments has led to a realignment of the 2-2-2-1 system, with the Christian Democrats surrendering one of their seats to the Swiss People's Party after the 2003 elections.

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, almost tripled its share of the popular vote from 11% in 1987 to 22.5% in 1999, to 26.6% in 2003, and finally to 29% in October 2007, thus overtaking its three major rivals. In the 2007 parliamentary elections, the SVP picked up an additional seven seats in the 200-seat National Council (lower house). This brought the SVP to 62 seats total. The Greens gained more than 2 percentage points and seven seats in the National Council, bringing their total shares to 9.6% and 20 respectively. They also for the first time gained seats in the Council of States (upper house). The Christian Democratic Party (CVP) booked modest gains of 0.2% and three seats, for a total of 14.6% and 31 seats in the National Council. This halted a downward trend that had cost the CVP a seat on the Federal Council to the SVP in 2003. The FDP lost 1.7% and five seats in the National Council, dropping to 15.6% of the votership and 31 seats in the National Council. Total voter turnout was 48%, a gain of 2.8% over the 2003 elections.

One feature of elections in Switzerland has been the decrease in voter turnout from around 80 per cent in 1919 and 60 to 70 per cent in the 1960s to 45 per cent in 2003. This decrease is viewed as worrisome by many and is attributed to several factors, including the high number of initiatives, referenda and elections that a Swiss citizen should participate in, the late enfranchisement of women and the perceived lack of executive responsiveness that characterizes the government. Another explanation given was that voters would be able to influence political issues of particular personal interest in initiatives and referenda, and perhaps therefore saw less need to vote in elections.

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.

Of the country's 16 largest political parties, only 4 (the Evangelical People's Party, the Christian Democratic Party, the Federal Democratic Union, and the Christian Social Party) subscribe to a religious philosophy. There have been no reports of individuals being excluded from a political party because of their religious beliefs. Some religious or spiritualgroups have organized their own parties, such as the Transcendental Meditation Maharishi's Party of Nature and the Argentinean Guru's Humanistic Party. However, none of these groups have a large enough following to win political representation.

Switzerland’s media landscape is diverse with several public and private television channels and radio stations as well as many newspapers (daily, tabloid and weekly) in the different languages. The public broadcaster, Swiss Broadcasting (SRG SSR idée Suisse), encompasses seven different enterprise units, including Swiss Television (Schweizer Fernsehen – SF) and Swiss Radio (Schweizer Radio DRS – SR DRS). The public broadcaster is independent from the government and political parties, despite its director being nominated by the Federal Council. Its main task as a public service provider is the promotion of Swiss identity with balanced programs in all linguistic parts of the country through its seven TV channels and 16 radio stations in the four national languages.

Switzerland’s linguistic and cultural diversity, as well as a long-term tradition of freedom of expression, have enabled the creation of a diversified and pluralistic media market. This is principally structured along linguistic lines, and a number of local media are present in each of the four Swiss linguistic regions. The overall reporting of the election campaign was diverse, and covered a variety of topics. Candidates largely resort to paid advertisements in the main media outlets to publicise their platforms.




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