An important day at the Swiss Parliament
Understanding the Swiss parliamentary system for a stronger impact
On Tuesday, 16 June, a group of Shapers from Geneva, Zurich and Bern had the great opportunity to visit the Swiss Parliament, also known as Federal Palace, in Bern. The purpose of this event was to provide shapers with a better understanding of the Swiss parliamentary system and to foster interactions between Swiss hubs and local politicians.
This special visit was organized by four Swiss Young Global Leaders (YGLs): Congresswoman Christa Markwalder from the Canton of Berne (YGL 2011), Congressman Guillaume Barazzone from the Canton of Geneva (YGL 2015), Senator Pascale Bruderer Wyss from the Canton of Aargau (YGL 2009) and Congressman Thomas Aeschi from the Canton of Zurich (YGL 2014), all of whom are involved in politics and are affiliated with four different parties. This visit, which represents the first YGL event of the year in Switzerland, was also attended by other YGL alumni, including Christoph Sutter (YGL 2009), Samuel Elia (YGL 2012), and Georges Kern (YGL 2005).
Two exceptional guides, Pascale and Christa, accompanied Shapers and YGLs. In addition to explaining how the Parliament works and describing the beautiful art of the palace, they were also happy to talk about the reasons why they chose this career and share interesting insights about their personal experiences in politics.
Pascale is a member of the Social Democratic Party and has been a Member of the Parliament of Switzerland since 2002. She started her career in politics motivated by the need to secure equal rights for people with disabilities. Her main focus lies on energy policy, social services and education.
Christa started her political career as a Member of the Municipal Council of Burgdorf and the Parliament of the Canton of Berne. In 2003, she was elected Member of the National Council, the House of Representatives in the Swiss Parliament, for the Liberal Democratic Party. She currently co-chairs various parliamentary groups on renewable energy, ecologically sustainable economies, relations with Eastern Europe and promotion of voluntary work.
Given the international nature of the Geneva Hub, this visit was particularly helpful to get Geneva Shapers closer to the Swiss community and have a better impact through our projects locally. It also represented a fantastic opportunity to strengthen ties between YGLs and Shapers across Switzerland. To continue along this path, the Geneva Hub is excited to host Shapers from Bern and Zurich on 11 July to work together and gather new ideas on how to improve our own communities.
We have summarized a few interesting facts about the Parliamentary system in Switzerland. Enjoy the read!
- The Federal Assembly is bicameral, composed of the National Council and the Council of States. The houses have identical powers.
- The National Council has 200 members elected in their canton of residence for a four-year term. The number of seats allocated to each canton is based on their relative populations.
- The Council of States has 46 members elected for a four-year term according to cantonal rules. Each canton has two seats, with the exception of Obwalden, Nidwalden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Appenzell-Innerrhoden and Appenzell-Ausserrhoden, which have one seat each.
- The Federal Assembly possesses the federal government’s legislative power, along with the separate constitutional right of citizen’s initiative. For a bill to become law, it must be passed by both houses.
- The Federal Assembly normally convenes in Bern four times a year, in spring, summer, autumn and winter. These ordinary sessions last for three weeks and are open to the public.
- On average, members of both chambers devote around 60% of their working hours to their parliamentary duties; most of them have a career not related to the Parliament.
- Switzerland’s National Day is Open Day at the Parliament Building. On 1 August, the presidents of the two chambers of the Federal Assembly traditionally address the public and answer their questions.
Author: Beatrice Montesi