Unformatted text preview: ion of responsibilities and resources between levels of government. Next, I
will discuss how these institutional configurations affect intergovernmental relations in Switzerland, before offering some
concluding remarks on the feasibility and plausibility of reforms of the system. 2. FEDERAL COMPONENTS OF THE SWISS POLITICAL SYSTEM The Swiss federal government comprises a cabinet made up of seven ministers designated by parliament, who exercise
power in a collegial manner, i.e. by sharing responsibility for decision-making. The composition of the cabinet follows a
“magic formula” whereby the federal government more or less reflects partisan politics in the country: two SocialDemocrats, two Christian-Democrats, two Radicals and one member of the Democratic Union of the Centre. Essentially,
it is as if Switzerland is permanently managed by a great coalition. During a given year, one of the ministers acts as
President of the Confederation, a largely representative function. Under Switzerland’s consociational tradition,
parliament also ensures that the government represents linguistic, regional and religious ratios. Until very recently, it was
impossible to elect two ministers from the same canton.
The National Council, the lower house of parliament in Switzerland, comparable to the House of Commons in Canada. It
is made up of 200 representatives elected by proportional representation in their electoral ridings, i.e. the 26 cantons, for
four years. Each canton is entitled to a certain number of seats, based on population. The National Council’s decisions
reflect partisan political lines. However, depending on the issues at hand, partisan logic gives way to the formation of
regional or even linguistic coalitions.
The Council of States is in some ways comparable to the Canadian Senate, although it functions on a very different
footing. Two deputies elected by a majority of cantonal voters represent each of the 26 cantons.1 In the past, when the
cantonal governments appointed the senators, the Council of States operated somewhat like a cabinet of cantonal
ministers. Today, the upper house is simply a second chamber in a perfect bicameral system. If the deputies continue to
pay special attention to the interests of their canton, many decisions are reached, as on the National Council, along
partisan lines. In Switzerland, perfect bicameralism means that the two houses may make proposals and decide on
current issues. Unlike the Canadian Senate, however, the Council of States, along with the National Council, may decide
on budgetary and financial measures. The budget is evaluated jointly and must obtain the approval of both houses. 1 The six half-cantons are entitled to only one deputy each. 101 Commission on Fiscal Imbalance Should differences arise, the budget shuttles back and forth between the two houses until agreement is reached.2 The
same process applies to any other decision, i.e. regulatory acts, expenditures or taxes.
One particularity of the Swiss system is that certain legislation is also subject to a public referendum. When the federal
Constitution is amended, the referend...
View Full Document