The Federal Council

The Federal Council is Switzerland's government. Its members represent the main political parties and reflect the country's different regions and languages. The federal councillors each head their own department, and therefore represent the highest level of the Federal Administration and of the executive branch at federal level.

Switzerland's national government consists of seven members of equal standing. They are elected or re-elected every four years by the United Federal Assembly. Each federal councillor is appointed to serve a one-year term as President of the Confederation by the Federal Assembly in accordance with the principle of seniority (i.e. longer-serving members first).  The Federal President chairs the sessions of the executive and undertakes special ceremonial duties, particularly abroad. 

Governing by consensus

In keeping with the consociational model of democracy adopted by Switzerland, all members of the Federal Council pledge to govern in a spirit of cooperation. As a collegial body, the Federal Council must remain unanimous when presenting a cabinet decision to the public, even if it is contrary to their personal views or to the official line taken by their party.  

The political composition of the Federal Council is based on the ratio of 2:2:2:1, with the three largest parties each receiving two seats and the fourth receiving one. At the present time, the Federal Council has two representatives from FDP.The Liberals (FDP), two representatives from the Social Democratic Party (SP), two representatives from the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), and one representative from the Centre (an alliance of the Christian Democrat People's Party and the Conservative Democratic Party). 

Leading the Federal Administration

Each federal councillor is in charge of a federal department. The Federal Council itself determines the allocation of these roles, with the principle of seniority applying here too. 

The Federal Council generally meets once a week. Over the year, it deals with between 2,000 and 2,500 items of business, which have been prepared by the federal departments or by the Federal Chancellery (the staff office of the Federal Council). The Federal Chancellor, who acts as chief-of-staff to the Federal Council, attends all cabinet meetings, but in a purely advisory capacity.