Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Female majority in the Federal Council of Switzerland?

Tomorrow the Federal Parliament will elect two (out of seven) new Federal Councils which will start their period of office in January 2011. In July, Moritz Leuenberger, the head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications and member of the Swiss Social Democratic Party (SP) stepped back after 15 years in the Federal Council. One month later, Hans-Rudolf Merz announced his resignation as well. He is head of the Federal Department of Finance and member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Switzerland (FDP). After the proclamation of this double resignation, the parties started to prepare for the political contest and searching adequate candidates for the highest political office of the country.

The Swiss Federal Council is the highest executive institution with seven equal members as a collegial body. In a one year cycle one of the seven members is the president of the Federal Council. The members are elected for four years by the parliament. They represent the population and the main political parties. Since 2009 the balance in the Federal Council is constituted in two seats for the Swiss Social Democratic Party (SP), one seat to the Christian Democrat People’s Party (CVP), two seats to the Liberal Democratic Party of Switzerland (FDP), one seat to the Conservative Democratic Party (BDP) and one seat to the Swiss People’s Party (SVP). From 1959 to 2003 the so called magic formula was, however, stable and the offices of the Federal Council were in the hands of each two seats for SP, CVP and FDP and one seat for SVP. Since the SVP gained more shares in the population, this magic formula was modified and is now main bone of contention of every election of a new Federal Council.

This year however, the main candidates for the highest office are either from the SP or the FDP. Tomorrow, September 22, 2010, the parliament will most likely choose one out of the two SP candidates and one out of the two FDP candidates. The two candidates of the Swiss Green Party (GPS) and the SVP only get little support even of their own parties and therefore won’t have a real chance to be elected tomorrow.

As unspectacular the oncoming election seems, a sensation in Switzerland is most likely to happen tomorrow: for the first time in history, the highest executive authority of the country will be dominated by a female majority. The only question remaining is whether Switzerland will be represented by four or five out of seven female federal councils.

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