Political Parties

Some political parties are only active at a regional level, while others are well-rooted nationwide and have elected representatives in the Federal Assembly (parliament).  The largest parties are represented in the Federal Council (cabinet). 

Chamber of the National Council
Chamber of the National Council © The Swiss Parliament

Four parties dominate the Swiss political landscape. They are active in almost all 26 cantons and each have at least one representative in the Federal Council.  According to the consociational model of democracy adopted in Switzerland, left-wing, right-wing and centrist parties all share executive power. Members of the Federal Council are drawn from the ranks of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the Swiss Social Democratic Party (SP), the Christian Democrat People’s Party (CVP) and the Liberals (FDP). 

Although the Swiss Green Party (the Greens), the Swiss Green Liberal Party (the Green Liberals), the Conservative Democratic Party (BDP), the Lega dei Ticinesi, the Swiss Evangelical People’s Party (EVP), the Christian Social Party (CSP) and the Geneva Citizens’ Movement (MCG) may not be represented on the Federal Council, they have elected representatives in the federal parliament.  The Conservative Democratic Party (BDP) was set up by former members of the SVP.

Changing political landscape

Over the last 20 years Switzerland’s political landscape has been marked by the considerable gains made by the SVP, a conservative party which has its roots in the farming community.  These gains have been at the expense of Switzerland’s other right-wing parties. Between the federal elections of 1995 and those held in 2015, the SVP won an additional 36 parliamentary seats, while the FDP lost 12 and the CVP 10. 

At the same time, considerable inroads have been made by the Greens (1995: 8 seats, 2015: 12 seats) and the Green Liberals (1995: 0 seats, 2015: 7 seats). The BDP, which was founded in 2008 by former SVP members, now has 8 members of parliament and has won a large number of cantonal and communal parliamentary seats.

Party funding

In Switzerland, the primary source of funding for political parties is membership fees and donations.  There is no federal obligation for parties to disclose their accounts or their donors.  However, the cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel and Ticino have each introduced their own party funding rules.