Politics of Zurich



The Federal Constitution was adopted in 1848 among the oldest constitutions in the world and dictates direct democracy. This document is the foundation of the modern federal state (though a new Constitution was adopted in 1999, without notable changes to the federal structure). It outlines basic and political rights of individuals and citizen participation in public affairs. It divides power between the Confederation and the cantons.

There are three main governing bodies on the federal level:
Bicameral parliament (legislative)
Federal Council (executive)
Federal Court (judicial)


The Swiss Parliament consists of two houses:
Council of States - consists of 46 representatives (two from each canton and one from each half-canton) who are elected under a system determined by each canton
National Council - consists of 200 members who are elected under a system of proportional representation, depending on the population of each canton.
Members of both houses serve for 4 years. When both houses are in joint session, they are known collectively as the Federal Assembly. Through referendums, citizens may challenge any law passed by parliament and through initiatives, introduce amendments to the federal constitution, thus making Switzerland a direct democracy.

The Federal Assembly of Switzerland meets in the Federal Palace in Bern, along with the Swiss Federal Council.

Federal Council

The Executive branch of the Federal Assembly directs the federal administration and serves as collective Head of State. It is a collegial body of seven members, elected for a four-year mandate by the Federal Assembly which also exercises oversight over the Council.

The President of the Confederation (German: Bundesprasident, French: President de la Confederation, Italian: Presidente della Confederazione, Romansh: President da la Confederaziun) is elected by the Assembly from among the seven members, traditionally in rotation and for a one-year term. The President chairs the government and assumes representative functions.

The Swiss Federal Council meets in the Federal Palace in Bern, as part of the Federal Assembly.
Didier Burkhalter is the current president of the confederation.

Federal Court

The supreme judicial authorities in Switzerland is the Federal Supreme Court in Lausanne and Lucerne. The function of the Federal Supreme Court is to hear appeals against rulings of cantonal or federal courts. The judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for six-year terms. It is tasked with

  • guaranteeing the protection of law for those seeking justice in specific cases,
  • ensuring the uniform application of federal law,
  • contributing to the development of the law.

Political Parties

The Swiss government has been a coalition of the four major political parties since 1959. Each party having a number of seats that reflects its share of electorate and representation in the federal parliament.

The classic distribution is 2 CVP/PDC, 2 SPS/PSS, 2 FDP/PRD and 1 SVP/UDC. This was the situation from 1959 to 2003 and has been called the "magic formula".


The Swiss Confederation consists of 26 cantons. The cantons experience a high degree of independence and are equal in status. Each canton has its own constitution, and its own parliament, government and courts. There are also important differences between the individual cantons.

  • Zurich
  • Bern
  • Luzern
  • Uri
  • Schwyz
  • Obwalden
  • Nidwalden
  • Glarus
  • Zug
  • Fribourg
  • Solothurn
  • Basel-City
  • Basel-Country
  • Schaffhausen
  • Appenzell Ausserrhoden
  • Appenzell Innerrhoden
  • St. Gallen
  • Graubünden
  • Aargau
  • Thurgau
  • Ticino
  • Vaud
  • Valais
  • Neuchatel
  • Geneva
  • Jura


Switzerland has avoided alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action. The country has been neutral since 1515 and has been recognized at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

In 2002, Switzerland become a full member of the United Nations and was the first state to join by referendum. The United Nations has its headquarters here. Switzerland is also the founding member and home to the League of Nations, as well as many international agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. The Swiss people have consistently rejected membership since the early 1990s.


Canton of Zurich

The canton (German: Kanton) of Zurich has its own government and parliament. It is 1,729 square kilometers with a population of more than 1.3 million. The canton is located in the northeast of Switzerland and the city of Zurich is its capital. The official language is German, but people speak the local Swiss German dialect called Züritüütsch (usually written without umlauts in English).

City Council

The City Council (Stadtrat) is the executive government of the City of Zurich. It is composed of nine councilors, each presiding over a department. Departmental tasks, coordination measures and implementation of laws decreed by the City Parliament are carried by the City Council.
The Zurich City Council is currently made up of four representatives of the SDP, two members of the FDP, two members of the Green Party and one member of the CVP. The president of the executive department acts as mayor. The current city president is Corine Mauch.

The election of the City Council by registered voters is held every four years. The executive body holds its meetings in the 1883 Renaissance style City Hall, on the bank of the Limmat.

City Parliament

The City Parliament (Gemeinderat) holds legislative power. It is made up of 125 members, with elections also held every four years. The City Parliament decrees regulations and by-laws that are executed by the City Council and the administration. The sessions of the City Parliament are public. Unlike the member of the City Council, the members of the City Parliament are not politicians by profession, but they are paid a fee based on their attendance. Any resident of Zurich allowed to vote can be elected as a member of the City Parliament. The legislative body holds its meetings in the Town Hall, opposite to the City Hall.

Update 26/02/2014

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