Switzerland is officially known as the Swiss Confederation. It is a federated country of central Europe and is known for its wealth. But did you know there is more than one president running the country?
Switzerland has seven presidents with equal power. Every year, they rotate to control the seven federal departments. These presidents come from various parties. Today there are two conservatives, two liberals, two socialists, and a centrist.
The Federal Council of Switzerland
The seven-member executive council that runs the federal government of the Swiss Confederation serves as a collective head of state. The council meets in the west wing of the Federal Palace in Bern. The council is responsible for leading the administration of Switzerland and making executive decisions.
The role of the president of the Swiss Confederation rotates among the seven councilors annually. The current vice president shall serve as president the following year. The current head of the council is Guy Parmelin, who has taken the role since January 1, 2021. (Source: Britannica)
How Are Elections in Switzerland Held?
The Federal Assembly elects the president from the Federal Council for a term of one year. During the 19th century, the election as federal president was an award for the most esteemed federal council member. By the 20th century, an unwritten rule was that the member of the Federal Council who has not yet been a federal president the longest becomes the president. Thus stating that every member of the Federal Council gets a chance to be the president at least once every seven years. (Source: Swiss Confederation)
What is the Task of the Federal Council?
As mentioned, no one person in Switzerland is ever the sole head of state. The President of the Confederation is primus inter pares or first among equals. The seven people on the council have to run specific departments for the country to run smoothly.
Even if the title of president is given to a single person, the president of the Swiss Confederation is not the head of state. The entire council holds the position. Only in the event the Federal Council cannot hold a meeting; the president can make a unilateral decision.
Each Federal Councillor heads a particular department. Similar to how ministers run certain branches of the administration. Councilors that are not termed as the president are often called ministers by the press even though there are technically no ministers in Switzerland.
A voice vote formally makes the decisions made by the council by the majority of the councilors present at the meeting. The said meetings of the Federal Council and the votes made are not open to the public. The records on the said meetings are also sealed. While the secrecy sparked controversy, it is still practiced. (Source: Swiss Confederation)
What Does the Vice President Do?
The Federal Assembly elects a vice president for the Federal Council. The vice president’s task is to take charge of presidential duties when the president is unable to. The Federal Council can also assign the vice president to take over the role of a president should the need arise. But most of the time, the vice president is next in line to the presidency. (Source: Swiss Confederation)