Council of States

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Council of States Chamber

The Council of States ( French Conseil des États , Italian Consiglio degli Stati , Romansh Cussegl dals Stadis or Cussegl dals Chantuns ) is the small chamber of the parliament of the Swiss Confederation . The name comes from stand , the old name for the Swiss cantons , it has nothing to do with the corporate state .

Since there are more veteran politicians in the Council of States than in the other parliamentary chamber, the National Council , it is also called in colloquial language with the originally Bern German word Stöckli ( moving house ).

The verbatim minutes of the Council of States are published in the Official Bulletin of the Federal Assembly and on a website on the same day (see web links) .

Number of members

The Chamber of States during a meeting

The Council of States consists of 46 members, one for each of the cantons previously mentioned ( Basel-Landschaft , Basel-Stadt , Nidwalden , Obwalden , Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Appenzell Innerrhoden ) and two for each of the other cantons. The canton of Zurich with 1.4 million inhabitants has the same weight in the Council of States as Uri with 35,000 inhabitants. The members of the Council of States are as Ständerätinnen and Councilors referred (see also proportion of women in the Senate from 1971 ).

Working languages

Standard German and French are used in the debates , Italian is rarely used. There is no simultaneous translation , which means that all MPs speak in their mother tongue and that every member of the Council of States should at least understand German and French.

Electoral process

The Swiss Federal Constitution stipulates in Article 150 that the election and term of office of members of the Council falls within the competence of the cantons. Thus, in contrast to the National Council, there is de jure no general election for renewal, and consequently no constituent meeting and no age president. Each canton is therefore free to determine the time of the election and the election procedure for its members of the Council of States.

Over time, however, the electoral process has become standardized. All cantons have determined direct election by the canton people as the electoral mode and set the term of office to four years. With the exception of the cantons of Jura and Neuchâtel , which elect their councilors according to proportional representation , the councils of states are now elected by the people in all cantons with major elections. The Council of States of the Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden is elected by the Landsgemeinde ; In the Canton of Neuchâtel , foreigners can also take part in the elections for the Council of States. In the canton of Glarus , 16 and 17-year-olds have recently been able to exercise the right to vote at the communal and cantonal level (and thus in elections to the Council of States) since a regional municipality resolution.

In all cantons with the exception of Appenzell Innerrhoden, the election of the Council of States takes place on the same day as the National Council election. In Appenzell Innerrhoden, the traditional rural community will be elected in April before the National Council elections. However, in all cantons that elect the Council of States by majority vote, a second ballot is necessary if at least as many candidates have not achieved an absolute majority in the first ballot as there are seats to be allocated.

In the cantons of Graubünden and Zug , too , the election of the Council of States took place a year before the National Council election. With a constitutional amendment in 2007, the Graubünden and Zug residents have now adopted the practice of the majority of all cantons and elect their councilors in parallel to the national council election. However, while Graubünden made the change to the 2007 election, in Zug it did not come into force until the next general renewal elections in 2011.

An early dissolution of the Council of States is only possible in the event of a total revision of the federal constitution decided by the people. The premature removal of its members is only provided for in the canton of Uri. Otherwise, a replacement election for the remainder of the term of office will only take place in the event of early resignation or in the event of the death of a Council of States.

As representatives of the cantons, the councils of states were initially determined by the respective cantonal parliaments . From 1867 onwards, various cantons began to elect their councilors through the people. The introduction of popular elections was a process that lasted over a hundred years: the canton of Bern was the last to introduce this procedure in 1977, while the canton of Jura, founded in 1979, went straight to it. The following table shows the year of introduction.

Empty Chamber of States
Canton introduction Canton introduction
Canton of ObwaldenCanton of Obwalden Obwalden 1867 Canton of TicinoCanton of Ticino Ticino 1892
Canton ZurichCanton Zurich Zurich 1869 Canton of GenevaCanton of Geneva Geneva 1893
Canton of SolothurnCanton of Solothurn Solothurn 1869 Canton of Appenzell InnerrhodenCanton of Appenzell Innerrhoden Appenzell Innerrhoden 1895
Canton of ThurgauCanton of Thurgau Thurgau 1869 Canton of SchwyzCanton of Schwyz Schwyz 1898
Canton of SchaffhausenCanton of Schaffhausen Schaffhausen 1876 Canton lucerneCanton lucerne Lucerne 1904
Canton of NidwaldenCanton of Nidwalden Nidwalden 1877 Kanton AargauKanton Aargau Aargau 1904
Canton of Appenzell AusserrhodenCanton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden Appenzell Ausserrhoden 1877 Canton of VaudCanton of Vaud Vaud 1917
canton of Grisonscanton of Grisons Grisons 1880 Canton of ValaisCanton of Valais Valais 1921
Canton of ZugCanton of Zug train 1881 Canton of St. GallenCanton of St. Gallen St. Gallen 1967
Canton of GlarusCanton of Glarus Glarus 1887 Canton of NeuchâtelCanton of Neuchâtel Neuchâtel 1971
Canton of UriCanton of Uri Uri 1888 Canton of FriborgCanton of Friborg Freiburg 1972
Canton of Basel-StadtCanton of Basel-Stadt Basel city 1889 Canton BernCanton Bern Bern 1977
Canton of Basel-CountryCanton of Basel-Country Basel-Country 1892 Canton of JuraCanton of Jura law 1979


Philippe Bauer | FDP | * 9. April 1962 | NE Élisabeth Baume-Schneider | SP | * 24. Dezember 1963 | JU Pirmin Bischof | CVP | * 24. Februar 1959 | SO Thierry Burkart | FDP | * 21. August 1975 | AG Marina Carobbio | SP | * 12. Juni 1966 | TI Andrea Caroni | FDP | * 19. April 1980 | AR Marco Chiesa | SVP | * 10. Oktober 1974 | TI Josef Dittli | FDP | * 11. April 1957 | UR Stefan Engler | CVP | * 30. Mai 1960 | GR Erich Ettlin | CVP | * 30. Mai 1962 | OW Daniel Fässler | CVP | * 22. August 1960 | AI Olivier Français | FDP | * 1. Oktober 1955 | VD Johanna Gapany | FDP | * 25. Juli 1988 | FR Hannes Germann | SVP | * 1. Juli 1956 | SH Andrea Gmür-Schönenberger | CVP | * 17. Juli 1964 | LU Maya Graf | Grüne | * 28. Februar 1962 | BL Brigitte Häberli-Koller | CVP | * 23. August 1958 | TG Thomas Hefti | FDP | * 30. Oktober 1959 | GL Peter Hegglin | CVP | * 25. Dezember 1960 | ZG Eva Herzog | SP | * 25. Dezember 1961 | BS Daniel Jositsch | SP | * 25. März 1965 | ZH Charles Juillard | CVP | * 17. Dezember 1962 | JU Hansjörg Knecht | SVP | * 24. März 1960 | AG Alex Kuprecht | SVP | * 22. Dezember 1957 | SZ Christian Levrat | SP | * 7. Juli 1970 | FR Marianne Maret | CVP | * 15. Juni 1958 | VS Lisa Mazzone | Grüne | * 25. Januar 1988 | GE Matthias Michel | FDP | * 20. März 1963 | ZG Thomas Minder | Parteilos | * 26. Dezember 1960 | SH Damian Müller | FDP | * 25. Oktober 1984 | LU Ruedi Noser | FDP | * 14. April 1961 | ZH Paul Rechsteiner | SP | * 26. August 1952 | SG Othmar Reichmuth | CVP | * 24. Januar 1964 | SZ Beat Rieder | CVP | * 12. Februar 1963 | VS Werner Salzmann | SVP | * 5. November 1962 | BE Martin Schmid | FDP | * 24. Mai 1969 | GR Carlo Sommaruga | SP | * 8. Juli 1959 | GE Jakob Stark | SVP | * 8. September 1958 | TG Hans Stöckli | SP | * 12. April 1952 | BE Adèle Thorens | Grüne | * 15. Dezember 1971 | VD Céline Vara | Grüne | * 4. Oktober 1984 | NE Hans Wicki | FDP | * 18. Februar 1964 | NW Benedikt Würth | CVP | * 20. Januar 1968 | SG Roberto Zanetti | SP | * 14. Dezember 1954 | SO Heidi Z'graggen | CVP | * 1. Februar 1966 | UR Mathias Zopfi | Grüne | * 14. Dezember 1983 | GL Amtliches Bulletin Bundesrat/rätin Bundesrat/rätin Bundesrat/rätin Bundesrat/rätin Bundesrat/rätin Bundesrat/rätin Protokollführer/in Redner/in Ratssekretäre/innen Sozialdemokratische Fraktion der Bundesversammlung (PS) Grüne Fraktion der Bundesversammlung (Grüne) Fraktion der Schweizerischen Volkspartei der Bundesversammlung (SVP) Die Mittefraktion CVP-EVP-BDP der Bundesversammlung (CEB) FDP-Liberale Fraktion der Bundesversammlung (FDP)
Seating arrangements for the Council of States from December 2019 by parliamentary group

Due to the electoral procedure, the composition of the Council of States differs according to parties from that of the National Council  - for decades the Liberals and the Christian Democrats have been the two strongest parties, while the SVP (like the SP in the past) is significantly weaker than in the large chamber.

The 46 seats are distributed as follows (at the beginning of each legislative period):

Political party 2019 2015 2011 2007 2003 1999 1995 1991 1987 1983 1979 1975 1971 1967
CVP 13 13 13 15th 15th 15th 16 16 21st 18th 19th 18th 17th 18th
FDP 12 13 11 12 14th 18th 17th 18th 14th 14th 11 14th 15th 15th
SP 9 12 11 9 9 6th 5 3 4th 6th 9 6th 4th 2
SVP 6th 5 5 7th 8th 7th 5 4th 4th 5 5 5 5 6th
GPS 5 1 2 2 - - - - - - - - - -
GLP - - 2 1 - - - - - - - - - -
BDP - 1 1 - - - - - - - - - - -
LPS - - - - - - 2 3 2 3 2 1 2 2
rest 1 1 1 - - - - 2 1 - - - 1 1

Work of the Council of States

The work and competencies of the Council of States are regulated by the Federal Act on the Federal Assembly (Parliament Act) and the fifth title of the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation . The Council of States forms the Federal Assembly with the National Council and exercises supreme power in Switzerland, subject to the rights of the people and the cantons . Both chambers are called councils. The Council of States and the National Council do not meet constantly, but meet regularly for sessions. As a rule, there are four sessions of three weeks each, with two to five meeting days per week. The spring session begins on the first Monday in March, the summer session on the first Monday in June, the autumn session after the Federal Prayer Day and the winter session on the last Monday in November. During the sessions the legislative proposals are debated; if the sessions are insufficient, a council can convene a special session for itself. In the case of special events (political crises, war, etc.), a quarter of the members of a council or the Federal Council can request that an extraordinary session be called; then both councils meet at the same time. So far, the Council of States and National Council has met eight times for extraordinary sessions, see the list of extraordinary sessions .


Room of the President of the Council of States

The meetings of States derives elected to one year Senate President . The Council of States vote without instructions from their cantons or cantonal governments - this is, for example, in contrast to the German Federal Council  - and are therefore completely free to exercise their mandate. Accordingly, the traditional phrase “representation of the cantons” is misleading.

The two chambers of the Council of States and the National Council are politically completely equivalent - a resolution is only valid if it has been passed by both chambers in the same version. All matters are dealt with in turn by both councils. The council chairpersons jointly determine which council deals with a business first («first council»).

If the National Council and the Council of States cannot agree on a common text after the first discussion, a difference adjustment procedure takes place, whereby the business between the two councils commutes back and forth. After three unsuccessful rounds, the agreement conference is called. If the unification conference's proposal is rejected by one of the parliamentary chambers, the deal will fail. Further explanations on the procedure: see legislative procedure (Switzerland) .

The Council of States and the National Council together form the United Federal Assembly , which meets for elections and on some other special occasions.


The taxable income of a Council of States from its function as Council of States averages 74,000 Swiss Francs (of which annual income 21,000 Francs, 106 daily allowances including sessions of 400 Francs = 42,400 Francs). The reimbursement of expenses amounts to an additional 58,600 francs (including annual allowance of 30,000, 99 meal allowances of 100 francs, 56 accommodation allowances of 169 francs). Total income and expenses: 132,800 francs. Depending on the number of meeting days and the place of residence, expenses and daily allowances may vary.


For the current Council of States elections, see Swiss parliamentary elections 2019 (context) and Results of the Council of States elections (2019-2023) (exact results).


The role of the Council of States as cantonal representation emerged in the preparatory work for the first Federal Constitution of 1848. The conservative party to the conflict in the Sonderbund War was keen to preserve a certain state sovereignty for the cantons. As a compromise, the victorious liberals approved the opposing party as a substitute for the daily statute, which with its parity of votes for all cantons gave the previously small Sonderbund cantons a disproportionate weight of votes and thus created a balance with the National Council in the newly created federal state . The system was not invented, however, but clearly imitated the two-chamber system of the US constitution . In contrast to the daily statute that has been handed down since the Middle Ages, the members of the Council of States do not vote according to instructions from the cantons, but according to their own political discretion and political-economic interests or party affiliation.

Criticism of the voting process

Votes were counted by hand until 2014, here in 1991
Vote with Raising Your Hand (1992)

The Council of States came under fire in December 2012 in the context of a three-time false count of a vote to ban reptile skins. Video recordings by Politnetz revealed three wrong votes in a deal on a reptile import ban; the vote had to be repeated twice so far. However, the opponents of electronic voting saw no problem in such counting errors. Two Councils of States, Hannes Germann (SVP, Schaffhausen) and Paul Niederberger (CVP, Nidwalden), even threatened with consequences at the time because the video recordings in the Council of States were not lawful. There had already been an incorrect count in the spring of the same year; a vote had to be repeated after more votes were counted than there were councils in the room.

The majority of the Council of States finally gave in on December 10, 2012 and supported a parliamentary initiative by This Jenny (SVP, GL) to introduce an electronic system.

Since the 2014 spring session, the Council of States has also been voting using an electronic voting system. In contrast to the National Council, however, the results are only published in the case of overall and final votes, votes with a qualified majority, and if at least ten council members request it. Electronic voting was introduced in the National Council in 1994.


Web links

Commons : Council of States  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Article 150 of the Swiss Federal Constitution
  2. ^ Introduction of proportional representation in Neuchâtel decided on September 26, 2010 by the people
  3. ^ Erich Gruner : The elections in the Swiss National Council 1848-1919 . tape 3 . Francke Verlag, Bern 1978, ISBN 3-7720-1445-3 , p. 492-493 .
  4. ^ Constitutions of Switzerland (from 1291 to today)
  5. The canton of Jura was founded in 1979, so the number of councilors rose from 44 to 46.
  6. 3 seats for farmers, trade and citizens' parties , 3 for democratic parties from the cantons of Glarus and Graubünden. These parties joined together in 1971 to form the Swiss People's Party.
  7. In 2009 the merger with the FDP took place.
  8. a b c non-party
  9. Lega dei Ticinesi , National Ring of Independents
  10. a b c State Ring of Independents
  11. Art. 148 BV
  12. Art. 151 BV
  13. fact sheet on the sessions (PDF, 77 KB) - Attention: Start the download immediately. ( Memento from October 10, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  14. a b Art. 2 ParlG
  15. ^ Parliamentary Services , 2007.
  16. 20 minutes online: Members of the Council see no problem in counting errors
  17. 20 minutes online: Politnetz cameras are not allowed in the Council of States
  18. 11,490 Parliamentary Initiative. Transparent voting behavior
  19. Business Regulations of the Council of States, Art. 44a