chapter
16 Pages

Consensual Government in a Heterogeneous Polity

At all times and in all countries, the art of government has been one of the most challenging and exciting. In Switzerland, an extremely heterogeneous and culturally diverse country, it is particularly difficult to exercise this function. Since 1848, when the modem Swiss federation was founded, this task has always been entrusted to the Federal Council, a committee consisting of seven members. According to article 174 of the constitution: 'The Federal Council is the supreme governing and executive authority of the Confederation', a formula that was, in fact, only introduced during the 1960s and reflects the growing importance of governments in democratic polities. In the classical tradition of continental European law, governments were seen mainly as executive authorities. In the second part of the twentieth century, however, this vision began to change: government functions henceforth included the anticipation of new developments, planning and policy making.