Parties in the Federal Council since 1848

The Radicals were the clear winners in the first ever elections to parliament. They won the first elections to the Federal Council as well. But Switzerland experienced a gradual conversion to consociational democracy, binding the various political forces into the government.

The first SP federal councillor, Ernst Nobs, was elected in 1943. This was the first time that all the strongest political parties were represented in the Federal Council.
The first SP federal councillor, Ernst Nobs, was elected in 1943. This was the first time that all the strongest political parties were represented in the Federal Council. (KEYSTONE/PHOTOPRESS-ARCHIV/str)

Many years of Liberal dominance

Switzerland did not always have the multi-party government that it has today. After the federal state was established in 1848, the Radicals ruled alone for 43 years.

1943: all major parties represented for the first time

In 1891, a member of the Catholic Conservatives (future Christian Democrats, or CVP) was elected to the government for the first time, followed by a second member in 1919. From 1917-1919, a Liberal held a seat in the Federal Council. In 1929, the Federal Assembly elected a member of the Farmers, Traders and Independents Party (now the Swiss People's Party, SVP) to the Federal Council. During World War II, in 1943, Social Democrats also joined the government.

The ‘magic formula’

In 1959, the four parties (FDP, CVP, SP and SVP) agreed to form a government with two Radicals, two Christian Democrats, two Social Democrats and one member of the People's Party. This arrangement, known as the ‘magic formula’ (ratio 2:2:2:1), remained unchanged for 44 years. In 2003, the SVP gained a further seat at the expense of the CVP. However, in 2008, the two SVP members elected, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf and Samuel Schmid, switched to the newly-formed Conservative Democratic Party (BDP). They have since stood down from the Federal Council and the SVP once again has two seats, held by Ueli Maurer (since 2009) and Guy Parmelin (since 2016). The formula is once again 2:2:2:1 (2 SP, 2 FDP, 2 SVP, 1 CVP – now  ‘Die Mitte’).

Last modification 28.12.2020

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