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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Democracy - Swiss-Style (2)

Tomorrow (14th December, 2011), the Swiss government will be elected.

 

The government (Federal Council) consists of 7 members.

 

They are elected by the members of the two chambers of parliament; the National Council (lower house) and the Council of States (upper house), which are jointly referred to as the Federal Assembly.

 

Elections are held every four years in December, shortly after the elections to the Federal Assembly.

 

Any Swiss citizen with the right to vote is eligible to stand for election to the Federal Council, and does not necessarily have to be an official candidate to be elected. The Federal Councillors are elected in separate ballots.

 

The Federal Councillors standing for re-election are voted for in order of their length of time in office.

 

The election takes place as follows:

 

  • The Federal Assembly votes by secret ballot in a number of rounds.
  • Any eligible person can receive votes in the first two rounds.
  • From the third round onwards, no new candidates are allowed to stand. If no candidate receives an absolute majority, the person who receives the lowest number of votes is eliminated before the next round.
  • The procedure is repeated until one person wins the absolute majority of votes, and is therefore declared the winner.
  • Federal councillors are elected for a four-year term of office.

 

All this makes for a very stable government, as the members are in office for 4 years, unless they choose to resign. As opposed to the British system where the cabinet is regularly ‘reshuffled’, so that ministers have no security of tenure; their office is at the whim of the Prime Minister.

 

If you are interested on how this all works in practice, watch in French, German, or Italian from 06:30 GMT tomorrow.

 

If you are interested in further reading, take a look at the Swiss Confederation website in English, French, German, Italian, or Romash ; the four national languages, as well as one especially for you!

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