Crisis Talk – Comparison Between French President and Swiss Federal Councilor

Dr. Louis Perron
blog post louis

Words matter. Especially in politics. Wasn’t it François Mitterrand who famously said that politics is the mastery of words?

In a great analysis, Cécile Denayrouse from the Tribune de Genève compared the official statements of the French President Emmanuel Macron with those of the Swiss federal council. And differences there are.

As I said in my contribution to and discussion of the analysis, we deal with the same virus, but the culture and the institutions to address and manage the crisis are hugely different. In that sense, the French are waiting for and then listing to the speech of the paterfamilias. The Swiss are assisting to a family conversation and exchange.

What I mean is that a French president is a modern-day king. He does not meddle with the details of the daily business (let alone daily business of domestic politics). A Swiss federal councilor, on the other hand, is de facto a mix between a minister, a prime minister, and a president. The seven federal councilors together perform the functions that are equivalent to those performed by the ministers, prime minister and president in another country. In that sense, a Swiss federal councilor and interior minister should indeed deal with the details of this health crisis. It is therefore no surprise that there are striking differences in the words used by Emmanuel Macron and Alain Berset. They reflect the different personalities, cultures and institutions.

You can find the article here. It’s written by Cécile Denayrouse and includes statements from French political scientist and professor at Paris-Sorbonne, Arnaud Benedetti, and myself.

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