Swiss politics and political institutions 3 government and parliament
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Swiss politics and political institutions: 3. Government and Parliament. Prof. Dr. Andreas Ladner iMPA 2012. The Parliament. Two “symmetric” houses An important number of parties Changing majorities Parliamentary groups Permanent commissions Reforms. The Council of States (46 seats).

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Swiss politics and political institutions: 3. Government and Parliament

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Swiss politics and political institutions:3. Government and Parliament

Prof. Dr. Andreas Ladner

iMPA 2012

The Parliament

  • Two “symmetric” houses

  • An important number of parties

  • Changing majorities

  • Parliamentary groups

  • Permanent commissions

  • Reforms

The Council of States (46 seats)

Council of States: „principle of federalism“

Parties and seats in the Council of States (1975-2007)

National Council (200 seats)

National Council: „Principle of Democracy“

Parties and seats in the National Council (1975-2007)

A very cheap parliament (Zgraggen 2004)

Income/Expenses/Time charge

The parliament loses its predominant position

  • At the end of World War I

  • Reasons: Increasing importance of Foreign Policy, Administration becomes more important

What does the Federal Assembly?

Art. 164 Legislation

Factions 2007-2011


It is the task of the committees to carry out a preliminary examination of issues allotted to them, which means that they work closely with the Federal Council.

The National Council has 12 standing committees:

10 legislative and 2 supervisory committees.

The Council of States has 11 standing committees:

9 legislative and 2 supervisory committees.

The National Council committees are made up of 25 members *) while the Council of States committees each have 13 members.

The committees are also responsible for monitoring social and political developments in the areas allotted to them by the Offices, and for proposing solutions to problems that arise (through a committee initiative).

The committees meet on average for 3 or 4 days per quarter.

Legislative Committees

  • Foreign Affairs Committees FAC

  • Committees for Science, Education and Culture CSEC

  • Committees for Social Security and Health CSSH

  • Committees for the Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy CESPE

  • Defence Committees DefC

  • Committees for Transportation and Telecommunications CTT

  • Committees for Economic Affairs and Taxation CEAT

  • Political Institutions Committees PIC

  • Committees for Legal Affairs CLA

  • Committee for Public Buildings CPB

Supervisory Committees

  • Finance Committees FC

  • Control Committees CC

  • Parliamentary investigation committees (PIC)

The power remains in the hands of the citizens

Parliamentary instruments

  • Parliamentary initiatives enable a member to submit a draft bill for an act or to propose in general terms that such a text be drafted. All legislative work takes place in a committee. Parliamentary initiatives are subject to a preliminary examination.

  • A motionobliges the Federal Council to submit a specific draft bill or decree or to take appropriate measures. A motion requires the approval of both chambers.

  • A postulateis a form of request requiring the Federal Council to examine and report on whether an act or decree needs to be drafted or if other measures need to be taken.

  • A postulate can also require the Federal Council to present a report on another issue. A postulate is binding once it is approved by one of the two chambers.

  • An interpellationenables members of the Federal Assembly to request information on important events or matters relating to foreign or domestic policy affecting the Confederation. A debate can be requested on the response given by the Federal Council.

  • An ordinary question in the same way as an interpellation, enables members to request information on important events or matters relating to foreign or domestic policy affecting the Confederation. However, contrary to interpellations, ordinary questions are not put before the Federal Council, but are answered in writing by the Federal Council.

  • Question time is a procedure used only by the National Council to deal with current issues. During question time, members of the Federal Council appear before the National Council to respond to questions from Council members. Question time, which lasts no longer than 90 minutes, takes place at the beginning of the second and third weeks of sessions.

Summary of the main tasks

  • Election of the Federal Council

  • Legislation

  • Budget

  • Oversight and Control

  • Representation of the citizens

How do the MPs vote?

NZZ: 1.12.2006

For more

Decision making process (1)

Decision making process (2)

2. Consultation on the report of the expert committee

3. Draft of Federal Council with two variants + 3 variants of the corresponding committee of the NC

1. FDHA – Expert committee

Decision making process (3)

7. No go!

4./5. Consultation

8. NC_CSSH suggests a new initiative

9. Federal Council submits initiative with request for minor changes

6. Submission to the Parliament

Decision making process (4)

12. /13. CS-CSSH does follows the Federal Council, and so does the CS

10. /11. NC-CSSH does not follow the Federal Council neither does the NC

14. NC joins CS with minor changes

17. Citizens accept

Decision making process (5)

15. Revision passes the two chambers

16. Referendum challenge

18. New provisions are put into force, 15 years from the beginning

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