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Swiss Federal Council election: Wikis


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The Swiss Federal Council is elected by the 246 members of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland by secret ballot. Regular elections take place every four years, in the first session following the Swiss federal elections. Additionally, an election is held to replace Federal Councillors who have announced their retirement or who have died in office.

The procedure of the election is guided both by legal requirements set down in the Swiss Constitution, and by informal understandings between the major parties, such as the Zauberformel which describes a long-standing Concordance system in which the four major Swiss parties, the Free Democratic Party, the Christian Democratic People's Party and the Social Democratic Party, mutually concede the right to a representation in the Federal Council roughly corresponting to each party's ballot in the general election.

The legal requirements for the election is in article 175 of the constitution and in articles 132f. of the parliamentary law of 2003.

It is customary to confirm sitting councillors seeking re-election. Non-reelection of a candidate has occurred only four times in the history of the Swiss federal state, twice in the 19th century (Ulrich Ochsenbein 1854), Jean-Jacques Challet-Venel 1872) and twice in the 21st (Ruth Metzler-Arnold 2003, Christoph Blocher 2007).

Councillors once elected have the right to serve their term and there is no mechanism by which the parliament could enforce their retirement. Each of the seven seats is subject to an individual election, held in sequence of seniority. It is customary for the major parties to name candidates. These candidacies aren't in any way binding or legally official, but especially when there are several vacancies to be filled, the individual fractions tend to honour these nominations in order to increase the likelihood of their own nominations being honoured. There have still been many cases where such candidacies have been ignored, with another, non-nominated member of the same party elected instead.

Since 1999, the constitution requires that the Federal Council should be composed so that all regions and linguistic groups are duly represented. Prior to 1999, it was merely required that only one Councillor from any given canton may hold office at any time.

Beyond the legal requirements, there are a number of long-standing traditions in the composition of the Council: The Federal Council never consisted of German-speaking members only, in spite of the Swiss German cantons recruiting a clear majority of the Federal Assembly. Councillors from the German-speaking cantons have, however, always been in the majority, usually in a 4:3 or 5:2 ratio. A majority of six German-speaking Councillors occurred only once, in the 1876 to 1880 term. The "Stammlande" principle traditionally elected only Councillors whose party held a majority in their own canton of origin.

There have been repeated attempts to reform the system of election to one of direct popular election. A popular initiative to this effect was repudiated in 1900 and again in 1942. The main argument against a popular election is the problematic balance of linguistic and regional minorities. A pure plurality voting system would likely result in a Federal Council composed exclusively of representatives of the urban, German-speaking cantons which account for a majority of Swiss population.

Individual elections

year date newly elected regular term predecessor(s) notes
1848 16 November  Ulrich Ochsenbein, Jonas Furrer, Martin J. Munzinger, Henri Druey, Friedrich Frey-Herosé, Wilhelm Matthias Naeff and Stefano Franscini   –  first election following the foundation of the Swiss Confederacy as a federal state with the entering into force of the federal constitution on 12 September.
1854 6 December Jakob Stämpfli Ulrich Ochsenbein non-reelection of Ochsenbein
1855 11 July Constant Fornerod Henri Druey (died in office)
1855 14 July Josef Martin Knüsel Martin J. Munzinger (died in office) Knüsel was elected after Johann Jakob Stehlin refused to serve
1857 39 July Giovanni Battista Pioda Stefano Franscini (died in office)
1861 30 July  Jakob Dubs Jonas Furrer (died in office)
1863 12 December  Karl Schenk Jakob Stämpfli
1864 12 July Jean-Jacques Challet-Venel Giovanni Battista Pioda
1866 8 December Emil Welti Friedrich Frey-Herosé
1867 6 December Victor Ruffy Constant Fornerod
1870 1 February Paul Ceresole Victor Ruffy (died in office)
1872 12 July Eugène Borel, Johann Jakob Scherer Jean-Jacques Challet-Venel non-reelection of Challet-Venel
1875 10 December Bernhard Hammer, Numa Droz, Fridolin Anderwert, Joachim Heer Eugène Borel, Paul Cérésole, Wilhelm Matthias Naeff, Josef Martin Knüsel Droz was elected after Louis Ruchonnet and Charles Estoppey declined their election.
1878 10 December Simeon Bavier Joachim Heer
1879 21 March Wilhelm Friedrich Hertenstein Johann Jakob Scherer
1881 3 March  Louis Ruchonnet Fridolin Anderwert (died in office) Karl Hoffmann refused to serve
1883 10 April  Adolf Deucher Simeon Bavier
1888 13 December  Walter Hauser Wilhelm Hertenstein (died in office)
1890 11 December Emil Frey Bernhard Hammer
1891 17 December Josef Zemp Emil Welti Zemp as a member of the Swiss Conservative People's Party (the predecessor of the Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland) was the first councillor not of the Radical Party, beginning of the Swiss concordance system.
1892 15 December  Adrien Lachenal Numa Droz
1893 14 December Eugène Ruffy Louis Ruchonnet (died in office)
1895 16 August Eduard Müller Karl Schenk (died in office)
1897 25 March Ernst Brenner Emil Frey
1899 14 December Marc-Emile Ruchet, Robert Comtesse Eugène Ruffy, Adrien Lachenal
1902 11 December Ludwig Forrer Walter Hauser (died in office)
1908 17 June Josef Anton Schobinger Josef Zemp
1911 4 April Arthur Hoffmann Ernst Brenner (died in office)
1911 14 December Giuseppe Motta Josef Anton Schobinger,
1912 12 March Louis Perrier Robert Comtesse
1912 17 July Edmund Schulthess, Camille Decoppet Adolf Deucher (died in office), Marc-Emile Ruchet
1913 12 June Felix-Louis Calonder Louis Perrier
1917 26 June Gustave Ador Arthur Hoffmann Ador was the first, and to date only, councillor of the Liberal Party of Switzerland
1917 13 December Robert Haab Ludwig Forrer
1919 11 December Jean-Marie Musy, Ernest Chuard, Karl Scheurer Gustave Ador, Camille Decoppet, Eduard Müller (died in office)
1920 12 February Heinrich Häberlin  Felix-Louis Calonder
1928 13 December Marcel Pilet-Golaz Swiss federal election, 1928 Ernest Chuard
1929 12 December Albert Meyer, Rudolf Minger Robert Haab, Karl Scheurer (died in office) Minger was the first representative of the Party of Farmers, Traders and Independents (BGB/PAI), the predecessor of the Swiss People's Party.
1931 Swiss federal election, 1931
1934 22 March Johannes Baumann Heinrich Häberlin
1934 28 March Philipp Etter Jean-Marie Musy
1935 4 April Hermann Obrecht Edmund Schulthess
1938 15 December Ernst Wetter Albert Meyer
1940 18 July Walther Stampfli Hermann Obrecht
1940 10 December Enrico Celio, Walther Stampfli, Eduard von Steiger, Karl Kobelt Giuseppe Motta, Rudolf Minger, Johannes Baumann
1943 15 December Ernst Nobs Ernst Wetter First Councillor of the Social Democratic Party.
1944 14 December Max Petitpierre Marcel Pilet-Golaz
1947 11 December Rodolphe Rubattel Swiss federal election, 1947 Walther Stampfli
1950 14 September Joseph Escher Enrico Celio
1951 13 December Markus Feldmann, Max Weber Swiss federal election, 1951 Eduard von Steiger, Ernst Nobs
1953 22 December  Hans Streuli     Max Weber
1954 16 December Thomas Holenstein, Paul Chaudet, Giuseppe Lepori    Karl Kobelt, Joseph Escher (died in office), Rodolphe Rubattel
1955 Swiss federal election, 1955 all sitting councillors confirmed
1958 11 December Friedrich Traugott Wahlen      Markus Feldmann (died in office)
1959 17 December Jean Bourgknecht, Willy Spühler, Ludwig von Moos, Hans Peter Tschudi Swiss federal election, 1959 Philipp Etter, Hans Streuli, Thomas Holenstein, Giuseppe Lepori beginning of the Zauberformel. Tschudi was elected instead of the nominated candidate Walther Bringolf.
1961 15 June  Hans Schaffner    Max Petitpierre
1962  27 September  Roger Bonvin     Jean Bourgknecht
1963 Swiss federal election, 1963 all sitting councillors confirmed
1965 8 December Rudolf Gnägi    Friedrich Traugott Wahlen
1966 14 December Nello Celio Paul Chaudet
1967 Swiss federal election, 1967 all sitting councillors confirmed
1969 10 December Ernst Brugger, Pierre Graber    Hans Schaffner, Willy Spühler
1971 8 December Kurt Furgler Swiss federal election, 1971 Ludwig von Moos
1973 5 December Willi Ritschard, Hans Hürlimann, Georges-André Chevallaz Nello Celio, Roger Bonvin, Hans Peter Tschudi
1975 Swiss federal election, 1975 all sitting councillors confirmed
1977 7 December Fritz Honegger, Pierre Aubert    Ernst Brugger, Pierre Graber
1979 5 December Leon Schlumpf  Swiss federal election, 1979 Rudolf Gnägi
1982 8 December Alphons Egli, Rudolf Friedrich    Hans Hürlimann, Fritz Honegger
1983 7 December Otto Stich, Jean-Pascal Delamuraz Swiss federal election, 1983 Willi Ritschard (died in office), Georges-André Chevallaz first female candidate (Lilian Uchtenhagen)
1984 2 October Elisabeth Kopp Rudolf Friedrich first successful female candidate
1986 10 December Flavio Cotti, Arnold Koller  Alphons Egli, Kurt Furgler
1987 9 December Adolf Ogi, René Felber Swiss federal election, 1987 Leon Schlumpf, Pierre Aubert
1989 1 February Kaspar Villiger Elisabeth Kopp Kopp was forced to resign after a political scandal.
1991 Swiss federal election, 1991 all sitting councillors confirmed
1993 10 March Ruth Dreifuss René Felber Francis Matthey was elected instead of the nominated Christiane Brunner. Matthey under pressure from his party refused to serve, after Dreifuss which was elected.
1995 27 September Moritz Leuenberger Swiss federal election, 1995 Otto Stich
1998 11 March Pascal Couchepin Jean-Pascal Delamuraz
1999 11 March Ruth Metzler-Arnold Swiss federal election, 1999 Arnold Koller The Council for the first time has two female members.
2000 6 December Samuel Schmid Adolf Ogi
2002 4 December Micheline Calmy-Rey Ruth Dreifuss
2003 10 December Christoph Blocher Swiss federal election, 2003 Ruth Metzler-Arnold non-reelection of Metzler-Arnold, end of the Zauberformel
2006 14 June Doris Leuthard Joseph Deiss
2007 12 December Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf Swiss federal election, 2007 Christoph Blocher non-reelection of Blocher. The Council for the first time includes three female members.
2008 10 December Ueli Maurer Samuel Schmid   Maurer was behind Hansjörg Walter in the first two rounds and won 122:121 in the third.
2009 16 September Didier Burkhalter Pascal Couchepin


See also



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