01/09/2017

How Democratic is Swiss Democracy?

The surprising announcement by Swiss Federal Councilor and foreign minister Didier Burkhalter that he will leave the government on October 31 has set off speculation within Switzerland about who will succeed him. A less surprising comment during a television interview by another Councilor, Doris Leuthard, that she will also be leaving the government at the end of the current legislature has added to political posturing and intrigue in a country that prides itself on its democratic tradition.


But how democratic is the election of the seven leaders of the Swiss government? What kind of criteria are used in the election of the federal council? How legitimate is it to associate Switzerland with direct democracy?
In a world where democracy is more and more being called into question and where authoritarianism is on the rise, it is intriguing to examine the electoral process in a country that is universally considered a democratic beacon. Where many say that we are living in a post-democratic world, how does democracy function in the election of the Swiss political leaders in a country ranked eighth of 167 in the world on the state of democracy by the Economist Intelligence Unit?
The seven Swiss federal councilors are elected by the 246 members of the Federal Assembly, the National Council and the Council of States. In this sense, the government is indirectly chosen by the people. But, whereas in the United States the presidential electors are chosen by the people based on the popular majority for the candidates in each state, the members of the Federal Assembly are not chosen by the people to vote for a specific candidate. They are merely chosen to represent their constituents. In this sense, the election of the Swiss government is one step removed from the American indirect election of the president and vice president by electors. The Swiss people indirectly indirectly elect their government. The ceremonial President and Vice President are also elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council. 
In the process of selecting the federal councilors by the Federal Assembly, various criteria come to the fore. In the current campaign, for example, attention is being given to the representation of the Tessin, the Italian -speaking region that has not had a representative in the government for over 20 years. A regional representation on the council is a constitutional requirement.
With the forthcoming retirement of Doris Leuthard, gender seems to be another major criteria. Ms. Leuthard and Simonetta Sommaruga are currently the only female councilors. In addition to geographic and linguistic representation and gender, political party membership is the third major criteria. The “Magic Formula” of dividing the Federal Council among various political parties is the backbone of Swiss political consensus.
The third mystery of the Swiss democratic system is the functioning of the elected government. Once the new member or members is/are chosen, the seven leaders meet to decide who will head each of the seven ministries. (The same system applies at the cantonal level.) Based on seniority, the various departments are allotted among the seven. This means that the oldest serving member of the government has the first choice of which department he or she wishes to lead, and so forth down the line. It is only among the officials that these decisions are made, which is hardly transparent or democratic. Citizens, even their representatives, have no final say in the matter although the major political parties have a great deal of influence on the decisions. (In addition, the members may change some of the alignments of the departments.) Someone may be foreign minister one day and finance minister the next. Merit or expertise are not primary considerations.
Are we being picky? After all, Switzerland has a system of direct democracy that is exemplary. Referendums can question any law if 50,000 citizens demand it. A popular initiative can request a change in the constitution if 100,000 citizens demand it. These examples of direct democracy give citizens the right to overrule laws passed by the legislature.
But, and this is not a minor but, the direct democracy does not effect the choosing of the seven federal councilors, something Swiss citizens have rejected, or the distribution of the various ministries. So, while Switzerland justifiably prides itself on its legislative direct democracy, the choosing of its executive leaders is very far from direct democracy.

 
 

Commentaires

"So, while Switzerland justifiably prides itself on its legislative direct democracy, the choosing of its executive leaders is very far from direct democracy." Cela est vrai Monsieur Warner et c`est (entre-autres choses) pour cela que la démocratie suisse fonctionne bien mieux que celles dans lesquelles l`Exécutif est choisi par la majorité électorale. Pourquoi? Parce que cela permet d`éviter que la surenchere dans le populisme durant une campagne électorale, la quantité de fric investi en faveur de tel ou tel candidat ou un battage médiatique biaisé puissent etre déterminants. Attention, pour qu`un tel systeme puisse exister, il faut un peuple suffisamment uni et ayant un niveau général d`éducation suffisamment élevé pour comprendre et accepter que le prix de la meilleure démocratie possible est justement une certaine limitation de la démocratie!

Écrit par : Jean Jarogh | 01/09/2017

"accepter que le prix de la meilleure démocratie possible est justement une certaine limitation de la démocratie!"
Personnellement, j'ai toujours été opposé à l'élection du CF par le peuple. Démocratie directe totale à l'échelle du pays est un concept inapplicable. Nous devons élire des représentants selon les régions et les partis. Et il faut que le gouvernement soit en phase avec ces représentants, ce qui serait difficile si le peuple devait à nouveau choisir à ce niveau. Et la Suisse étant une confédération, il faudrait obligatoirement des quotas. La Suisse romande aurait deux représentants au CF, qui serait quasi-obligatoirement soit deux socialistes, soit un radical et un socialiste (comme Vaud et Genève au Conseil des États). Ce qui ne serait démocratique qu'en apparence. Une dictature de la majorité.

Écrit par : Géo | 01/09/2017

Et puis, cette affirmation laisse de côté le fait que la Suisse se gouverne sur un compromis entre partis et régions et non dans une alternance gauche-droite :
"So, while Switzerland justifiably prides itself on its legislative direct democracy, the choosing of its executive leaders is very far from direct democracy."

Écrit par : Géo | 01/09/2017

Switzerland is no longer a democracy, Mr Warner. Since the confiscation of the people's vote by the parliament in December 2016 on migration policy, Switzerland can no longer be considered a democracy.

At this moment Switzerland is governed by a Directory which obeys Brussels. I believe that the violation of their political oath on December 2016 by the majority of the Swiss parliament would never have taken place in USA. American people and values would never have accepted it.

For more information please visit this website.

https://mouvement-9fevrier.org



La Suisse n'est plus une démocratie, Mr Warner. Depuis la confiscation du vote du peuple par le parlement en décembre 2016 au sujet de la politique migratoire, la Suisse ne peut plus être considérée comme une démocratie.

En ce moment la Suisse est gouvernée par un Directoire qui obéit à Bruxelles. Je crois que la violation de serment de décembre 2016 par la majorité de l’Assemblée fédérale n'aurait jamais pu avoir lieu aux USA. Le peuple et les valeurs des États-Unis ne l'auraient jamais accepté.

Michel Piccand

Écrit par : Piccand Michel | 01/09/2017

Mitchel Piccand@ L'objection à votre affirmation, c'est qu'il y a des gens qui votent pour ces députés-là...
Et derrière cette problématique : qui a envie de voter pour l'UDC, considérant la faiblesse de son personnel politique, en tout cas en Suisse romande ?

Écrit par : Géo | 02/09/2017

Cher Monsieur Warner,

Vous auriez dû commencer votre sujet en mentionnant le système de concordance qui régit la composition de l'exécutif fédéral. Ce système proportionnel, où les principales forces politiques sont représentées, de même que les régions, évite la polarisation de notre politique, et force le gouvernement à rechercher le consensus. Ce n'est ni plus ni moins ce que d'autres appellent un gouvernement d'unité nationale.

Meilleurs messages

Écrit par : Lucien Barrillier | 02/09/2017

Je viens de relire votre post, Monsieur Warner et il me plait de plus en plus. A mon sens, avec l`exemple suisse vous illustrez en peu de mots une grande vérité généralement tue (du verbe taire) car d`apparence politiquement incorrecte: trop de démocratie tue la démocratie.

Écrit par : Jean Jarogh | 02/09/2017

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