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Swiss appear to favour proposal for two-tier federal executive

Switzerland moved one step nearer to a reform of its executive structure on Thursday as the results of a consultation process showed broad acceptance for a two-tier model with ministers having deputies.

This content was published on August 19, 1999 - 17:18

Switzerland moved one step nearer to a reform of its executive structure on Thursday as the results of a consultation process showed broad acceptance for a two-tier model with ministers having deputies.

The consultation process was undertaken by the seven-member executive cabinet, a body in which each cabinet member heads a ministry.

At this point, only half of all ministries have a state secretary to help out with the workload and the government has been mulling for years over ways to reduce the threat of overwork for the ministers.

The first reform proposal, which called for appointing state secretaries for all ministries, was roundly rejected in a national referendum.

Last year, the cabinet then published two reform variants, which were submitted to the political parties, cantons, trade associations and other interest groups for comment.
One variant foresaw a presidency which would rotate after two years, as opposed to the present annual change.

This variant also foresaw somewhat increased presidential powers -- which today are very limited -- and the possibility of enlarging the cabinet from its present seven members.

Parliament and the people have never wanted a strong central power in Switzerland and the idea of any kind of presidential system, however watered down, is anathema to most Swiss.

This was reflected in the results of the consultation procedure: Not one governing political party supported it, although it did find favour with just over a third of the cantons.

It was also supported by the heavyweight Federation of Swiss Industry (Vorort) and the influential Farmers Association.

The second variant foresees a two-tier executive composed of federal councillors (as is now the case), who would have deputies in the form of ministers.

This would ease the daily workload of the cabinet and allow the members to concentrate more on planning and long-term governing.

The two-tier idea is supported by eleven cantons and the Christian Democratic and Social Democratic parties, which are both represented in the cabinet.

The proposal also gets approval from the Small Traders Association and the Trade Union Federation.

The cabinet has now commissioned the Justice and Police Ministry to work out the details and to submit a timetable for the two-tier system, which will then have to be approved by parliament and Swiss voters.

From SRI staff.

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