Seven Fascinating Facts About Swiss Politics
Swiss citizens will head to the polls to elect the national parliament next Sunday. Well, some of them will – around 50 percent of those eligible to vote are expected to stay at home. They should know better: Switzerland's political system is one of the most unique and fascinating in the world. Here's why:
The Swiss government is incredibly stable. All the big parties (currently 5) have at least one seat in the federal council (executive branch). Therefore, more than 80 percent of voters are represented in the government. The Swiss even invented their own word for this system: Konkordanz.
Once a party gets into the government, it usually stays there. The Liberals hold the record for the longest time in government: 167 years, from 1848 until today – that's a world record. Mexico's PRI (in government from 1929 until 2000) doesn't even come close.
Swiss politics is magic, as shows another word that only exists in Switzerland: The Zauberformel, or «magic formula», describes the traditional distribution of seats in the government: 2-2-2-1. Although the formula has changed slightly a few years ago due to a split of one party, the magic has stayed.
Switzerland is the country with the most comprehensive system of direct democracy. We have national votes about which products gas station shops can sell between 1 am and 6 am, whether or not we want to have six weeks holidays a year (no, we don't) and whether or not rich foreigners should be allowed to pay lower taxes than Swiss citizens (yes, they should). The possibility to influence policies directly might be a reason why people show little interest in elections.
The Swiss have a political system that makes them happy. No kidding – economist Bruno S. Frey has shown in his work a significant correlation between the degree of direct democracy in a political entity and happiness of the people living there. It seems, therefore, that being able to choose yourself whether you want more holidays or not (and about more important topics, of course) actually makes you happier.
Swiss politics is marked by a high degree of stability – not only in government, but also in parliament. The surveys for the next elections predict changes between 0 and 2.5 percent for each party. According to research, Switzerland is one of the countries with the lowest electoral volatility. The reason for this might be the system of government: Since no party has the sole responsibility for the policies of the government, voters don't punish a particular party in the ballots.