The Swiss political landscape is distinguished above all by its stability. Four parties predominate and have been represented in government for decades.
The centre-right Radical Party is traditionally perceived as close to the business community. It is the party of the founding fathers of modern-day Switzerland in 1848 and merged with the Liberals in 2009. Today it is the third largest group in the House of Representatives behind the Swiss People’s Party and the Social Democratic Party, and the first party in the Senate alongside the Christian Democratic Party.
The centre-right Christian Democratic Party was traditionally a conservative Catholic party but has moved to the centre of the political spectrum. Despite a loss of voters in recent years, it has succeeded in maintaining its strength in parliament. The Christian Democrats are the biggest group in the Senate, alongside the Radical Party.
The centre-left Social Democratic Party has lost ground in recent years but is still the second-largest group in the House of Representatives and the third biggest in the Senate. It is made up mainly of representatives from French-speaking Switzerland and of the trade unions.
The most defining change in the political landscape since the 1960s has been the rise of the conservative right Swiss People's Party to become the strongest political party in Switzerland.
Rise of the right
During the 1990s, the People's Party positioned itself as an opposition party from the right, voicing opposition to Switzerland's opening up to international organisations like the UN and the European Union.
In 2008, following the ousting of one of its ministers in the government, the party disowned its two moderate ministers. This led to the creation of a new party, the centre-right Conservative Democratic Party.
In 2015, taking a hard line on immigration and asylum, the People's Party increased its share of the vote from 26.6% to 29.4% and 65 seats in the House, the best result of a Swiss political party in history.
The Radicals claim to be Switzerland's largest political party, with 120,000 members, followed by the Christian Democrats at 100,000, the People's Party at 90,000, and the Social Democrats at 34,000 (all figures as of 2007). The membership figures do not reflect the importance of the parties in parliament.
Almost 7% of Swiss are members of a party.