The Swiss Went to the Polls and Nothing Has Changed?

Dr. Louis Perron
blog post louis

Last weekend, the Swiss went to the polls and not much has changed. Swiss polity is extremely stable. There has always been a center-right majority in parliament, there still is, and there always will be.

The greens lost heavily. But that was expected after their historic gains four years ago. And hey, since when did a party have to apologize for scoring its second best result in history?

An important aspect of the unique Swiss system is power sharing. The so-called magic formula to distribute the seats in the government (we call it the Federal Council) among the main parties is the ultimate symbol for this. The results of parliamentary elections only impact this magic formula in the very medium term. But in that respect, the results of last week’s election could be consequential. There is barely a logic argument to defend the second seat the liberal party FDP is occupying in the Federal Council at the moment (liberal to be understood in a free-market sense, not in a US, leftist sense). This will be up for debate once an incumbent FDP member of the government is vacating his seat.

Another important aspect of Swiss politics is constantly changing majorities in parliament. In that sense, more seats are of course always good for a party. But the ability to negotiate and broker a compromise as well as the reliability are equally important for a party to impact legislation. In the past, the winner of the election, the right-wing Swiss People Party has shown little interest in exactly that.

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