Regions in the Federal Council since 1848

At least one French-speaker and one Italian-speaker, or two French-speakers have held a seat in the Federal Council at almost any given time. The Swiss culture of consensus is based on the conviction that decisions are only sustainable if they are supported not only by the majority, but by minorities as well. For that reason, the seven members of the Federal Council are drawn from different cantons, language regions and parties.

Falvio Cotti (President of the Swiss Confederation) from Ticino and Ruth Dreifuss (Vice President) from Geneva on their way to a closed meeting of the Federal Council in Ticino in 1989.
Flavio Cotti (President of the Swiss Confederation) from Ticino and Ruth Dreifuss (Vice President) from Geneva on their way to a closed meeting of the Federal Council in Ticino in 1989. (KEYSTONE/Karl Mathis)

Cantons –balanced representation

No more than one federal councillor per canton. That is what the original Federal Constitution stipulated when the Confederation was established. The aim was to prevent the large cantons from dominating. The canton to which a person was considered to belong was for a long time determined by that person's canton of origin, and later by the canton of residence or where they were last in government. In 1999 the constitutional rule was rendered more flexible: "care must be taken to ensure that the various geographical and language regions of the country are appropriately represented".

Language regions - the 5:2 rule

The equitable representation of the language regions in the Federal Council has been a major concern since the Confederation was founded. Although it was not required by law, even the very first Federal Council contained two representatives of 'Latin' Switzerland. It has been rare for the 5 to 2 ratio not to be respected. Since 1999, the constitutional provision has not only regulated regional, but also linguistic representation. Language regions must be appropriately represented.

Statutory basis: Federal Constitution Art.175 Composition

Region representation in the Federal Council

  • The largest cantons, Zurich, Bern and Valais have almost always had a representative in government. But there are also cantons that have never had a federal councillor: Schaffhausen, Uri, Schwyz, Nidwalden and Jura.
  • Since 2010, the Federal Council has been able to express its regional ties in a new way: the Federal Council now holds one or two meetings each year 'extramurally', i.e. in a different canton.

Last modification 14.09.2017

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