22 Pages

Swiss Political Parties: Between Persistence and Change

From a comparative perspective, two aspects of the Swiss party system are particularly salient: the large number of parties and the relative stability of the distribution of power. Apart from social and cultural cleavages, the electoral system (PR), the competitiveness encouraged by the federal state and direct democracy can be seen as responsible for party proliferation in Switzerland. l Political stability stems from the integrative force of consociationalism, which has its roots in the small size of the country, its political culture, and the system of direct democracy. In Switzerland the most important parties are continuously represented in government, and there is no change of power between the parties in government and the parties in opposition. The composition of the national, as well as almost all cantonal, governments quite often remains unchanged over a long period. Since 1959, the national government, for example, has consisted of two members of the Radical Democrats (FDP), the Christian Democrats (CVP) and the Social Democrats (SPS), and one of the Swiss People's Party (SVP). This composition is commonly referred to as the 'magic formula' .