The President of the Swiss Confederation, also known as the President of the Confederation or colloquially as the President of Switzerland, is the head of Switzerland's seven-member Federal Council, the country's executive branch. Elected by the Federal Assembly for one year, the president chairs the meetings of the Federal Council and undertakes special representational duties. First among equals, the president has no powers over and above the other six councillors and continues to head their department. Traditionally the duty rotates among the members in order of seniority and the previous year's vice-president becomes president. The president is not the Swiss head of state; the entire Federal Council is the collective head of state.
The constitutional provisions relating to the organization of the Federal Government and Federal administration are set out in Section 1 Organisation and Procedure of Chapter 3 Federal Council and Federal Administration of the Title 3 Confederation, Cantons and Communes of the Swiss Federal Constitution at articles 174 to 179. Article 176 specifically relates to the Presidency.
|President of the Swiss Confederation
since 1 January 2019
|Term length||1 year, not eligible for re-election immediately|
|Inaugural holder||Jonas Furrer|
|Formation||21 November 1848|
|Deputy||Vice-President of the (Swiss) Confederation|
|Salary||CHF 445,163, p.a. (Approx $448,000) as of 1 January 2017|
The Swiss president is not – as are, for example, the Presidents in Austria or Germany – the head of state of the country: under the Swiss Federal Constitution, the Federal Council doubles as a collective head of state and head of government. When a tied vote occurs in the council (which sometimes happens, because the six Federal Councillors who are not president vote first), the president – as the chair of the council – casts the deciding vote (or may abstain).
In addition to the control of his or her own department, the president carries out some of the representative duties that are normally carried out by a single head of state in other democracies. For example, since joining the United Nations, Swiss presidents have on occasion spoken at inaugural sessions of the General Assembly along with other visiting heads of state and government. However, because the Swiss have no single head of state, the country carries out no state visits. When traveling abroad, the president does so only in their capacity as head of their department. Visiting heads of state are received by the seven members of the Federal Council together, rather than by the President of the Confederation. Treaties are signed on behalf of the full Council, with all Federal Council members signing letters of credence and other documents of the kind.
In the nineteenth century, the election as federal president was an award for especially esteemed Federal Council members. However, a few influential members of the government were regularly passed over. One such example was Wilhelm Matthias Naeff, who – although a member of the Federal Council for 27 years – was federal president only once, in 1853.
Since the twentieth century, the election has usually not been disputed. There is an unwritten rule that the member of the Federal Council who has not been federal president the longest becomes President. Therefore, every Federal Council member gets a turn at least once every seven years. The only question in the elections that provides some tension is the question of how many votes the person who is to be elected president receives. This is seen as a popularity test. In the 1970s and 1980s, 200 votes (of 246 possible) was seen as an excellent result, but in the current era of growing party-political conflicts, 180 votes are a respectable outcome.
Until 1920, it was customary for the serving federal president to also lead the Department of Foreign Affairs. Therefore, every year there was a moving around of posts, as the retiring president returned to his former department and the new president took up the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Likewise, it was traditional for the federal president not to leave Switzerland during their year in office.
Adrien Lachenal (19 May 1849, Geneva – 29 June 1918) was a Swiss politician and Jurist.
Married with Anne Louise Eggly in 1878 he had four sons. He was affiliated to the Free Democratic Party, and belonged to the Masonic lodge «Fidélité et Prudence».Lachenal is buried at the Cimetière des Rois ,Geneva.Alain Berset
Alain Berset (born 9 April 1972) is a Swiss politician of the Social Democratic Party. Since 1 January 2012, he is a member of the Swiss Federal Council, the seven member Swiss executive, and head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (the Swiss interior minister). From 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2018, he served as President of the Swiss Confederation, head of the Federal Council; at age 45, Berset was the youngest President of the Confederation since Marcel Pilet-Golaz in 1934. Before being elected to the Federal Council in December 2011, he was a member of the Swiss Council of States for the Canton of Fribourg since 2003, serving as the chamber's president during the 2008/2009 term.
Berset speaks Swiss German, French, Italian, Romansh, and English.Didier Burkhalter
Didier Burkhalter (born 17 April 1960 in Neuchâtel) is a former Swiss politician.
Burkhalter is a member of FDP.The Liberals. He was elected as a member of the Swiss Federal Council on 16 September 2009. He succeeded Pascal Couchepin on 1 November 2009 when he became head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (the Swiss interior minister). From 1 January 2012 to 31 October 2017, he served as head of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In 2014 he was President of the Swiss Confederation. He served as Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2014. He left the Federal Council on 31 October 2017.Doris Leuthard
Doris Leuthard (born 10 April 1963) is a Swiss politician and lawyer. Since 1 August 2006, she has been a member of the Swiss Federal Council, and was elected as President of the Swiss Confederation for 2010 and 2017.Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (born 16 March 1956) is a Swiss politician and lawyer, and former member of the Swiss Federal Council from 2008 to 2015. She was the head of the Federal Department of Finance (the Swiss finance minister). She served as President of the Swiss Confederation for the year 2012.Fridolin Anderwert
Fridolin Anderwert (19 September 1828, Frauenfeld – 25 December 1880) was a Swiss politician.
He was elected to the Swiss Federal Council on 10 December 1875 and was member of the Council until 25 December 1880. He was affiliated to the Free Democratic Party of Switzerland.
During his office time he held the Department of Justice and Police and was Vice-President of the Swiss Confederation in 1880.
On 7 December 1880 he was elected President of the Swiss Confederation for the year 1881. Immediately after the election a nasty campaign against him broke out in the press, in particular about the eating habits of the obese bachelor, but also rumors that he was a regular visitor in gay brothels. Drawn by physical exhaustion and severe depression, Anderwert committed suicide on Christmas Day 1880 on the "Kleine Schanze", a small park next to the Houses of Parliament. The only published sentence of his farewell letter states: "They want a victim, they shall have it."Giuseppe Motta Medal
Giuseppe Motta Medal is presented annually since 2004 by the Geneva Institute for Democracy and Development to the people from any country or region of the world for exceptional achievement in the promotion of peace and democracy, human rights and sustainable development. The prize commemorates Giuseppe Motta (1871–1940), a Swiss politician, five-time President of the Swiss Confederation, President of the League of Nations Assembly and member of the Swiss Federal Council.Three medals are awarded annually according to nominations:
Support for peace and democracy
Protection of human rights
Work to achieve sustainable developmentHans-Rudolf Merz
Hans-Rudolf Merz (born 10 November 1942) is a Swiss politician of FDP.The Liberals and former member of the Swiss Federal Council. He was the head of the Federal Department of Finance (the Swiss finance minister) from 2004 to 2010 and President of the Swiss Confederation for 2009. On 6 August 2010 Merz announced his resignation for October 2010.Born in Herisau, Switzerland, he studied at Hochschule St. Gallen and graduated in 1971 with a DEA's degree and as Dr. rer. publ.Henri Druey
Daniel-Henri Druey (12 April 1799 – 29 March 1855) was a Swiss politician of the 19th century and a founding father of constitutional democracy and member of Free Democratic Party in Switzerland.Melchior Josef Martin Knüsel
Melchior Josef Martin Knüsel (16 November 1813 – 15 January 1889) was a Swiss politician from Lucerne, member of the Swiss Federal Council (1855-1875).
He was elected to the Swiss Federal Council on July 14, 1855, representing the Canton of Lucerne, and handed over office on December 31, 1875. He was affiliated with the Radicals. While in office he held the following departments:
Department of Finance (1855 - 1856)
Department of Trade and Customs (1857)
Department of Justice and Police (1858)
Department of Trade and Customs (1859 - 1860)
Political Department (1861) as President of the Swiss Confederation
Department of Finance (1862 - 1863)
Department of Justice and Police (1864 - 1865)
Political Department (1866) as President of the Swiss Confederation
Department of Justice and Police (1867 - 1873)
Department of Home Affairs (1874 - 1875)He was President of the Confederation twice, in 1861 and 1866.Moritz Leuenberger
Moritz Leuenberger (born 21 September 1946) is a Swiss politician, lawyer, was a member of the Swiss Federal Council from 1995 to 2010 and President of the Confederation in 2001 and in 2006.
Leuenberger was elected to the Federal Council on 27 September 1995 as a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPS/PSS) from the Canton of Zürich. From 1991 to 1995, he was a member of the government of the Canton of Zurich.
Since 1995, Leuenberger has headed the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (Environment and Communications were added to the name of the department in 1998).
Leuenberger has been married to architect Gret Loewensberg since 2003.
At a ceremony in Brussels, the Community of European Railways and Union des Industries Ferroviaires Européennes presented the 2009 European Railway Awards on 20 January 2009. Leuenberger was presented with the Political Award for his work to build and maintain a sustainable transportation policy.On 9 July 2010 Leuenberger announced he would leave the Federal Council as of 31 December 2010. At this time Hans-Rudolf Merz had been expected to resign as well and there were talks between the two about resigning together. Leuenberger's resignation came as a complete surprise. One month later, on 6 August 2010, Hans-Rudolf Merz also announced his resignation for October. This led to the situation that the parliament would have had to elect a new Federal Councillor both in September and November. To avoid this situation, Leuenberger then announced he would change his resignation to allow for just one election for both new Councillors.Pascal Couchepin
Pascal Couchepin (born 5 April 1942) is a Swiss politician, former member of the Swiss Federal Council (1998–2009) and President of the Confederation in 2003 and 2008. He headed the Federal Department of Home Affairs (Swiss interior ministry) from 2003 to 2009.
He was elected to the Swiss Federal Council on 11 March 1998 as a member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP/PRD) and the canton of Valais. In 1998 he took over the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, in which position he fought against the Swiss government contributing any money to the $1.25 billion settlement between Swiss banks and Holocaust survivors. He was quoted as saying that "there is no reason for the Swiss Government to pay anything", as a government commission had shown "we did what was possible in the hard times of the war." In 2003 he moved to the Federal Department of Home Affairs.
He was the President of the Confederation in 2003. On 13 December 2006, he was elected vice-president of the Federal Council for 2007, and, on 12 December 2007 was elected President of the Confederation in 2008.
Previously, he had been Deputy Mayor (1976) and Mayor of Martigny (since 1984) and, from 1979 to 1998, member of the National Council.
Couchepin holds a DEA's degree in Law from the University of Lausanne, is father of three (2 daughters and a son) and has two grandchildren.
During the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy, he stated the Pope's speech was "intelligent and necessary."On 12 June 2009, Couchepin announced his resignation from the Federal Council effective 31 October 2009. This led to an election to fill his vacated seat.
Pascal Couchepin is a Member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to support democratic leadership, prevent and resolve conflict through mediation and promote good governance in the form of democratic institutions, open markets, human rights and the rule of law. It does so by making available, discreetly and in confidence, the experience of former leaders to today’s national leaders. It is a not-for-profit organization composed of former heads of government, senior governmental and international organization officials who work closely with Heads of Government on governance-related issues of concern to them.Pierre Musy
Pierre Musy (25 August 1910 – 21 November 1990) was a Swiss bobsledder and horse rider. Competing in the four-man bobsled event he won a gold medal at the 1936 Winter Olympics and a silver at the FIBT World Championships 1935. As an equestrian he competed in the three-day eventing at the 1948 Summer Olympics and finished 32nd individually and fourth with the Swiss team.Musy was the son of Jean-Marie Musy, who was the President of the Swiss Confederation in 1925 and in 1930. He graduated from Collège Saint-Michel and from the University of Bern with a degree in law. From 1931 to 1939 he worked at local and federal banks in Geneva. He took various military posts from 1938 through 1960s, and served as a Swiss military attaché in the Middle East (1951–1954) and European countries (1954–1961). Between 1963 and 1967 he headed the Swiss Military Intelligence Service, and after that was appointed as President of FC Fribourg.Rudolf Gnägi
Rudolf Gnägi (3 August 1917, Schwadernau, Canton of Bern – 20 April 1985) was a Swiss politician and member of the Swiss Federal Council (1966–1979).
He was elected to the Federal Council of Switzerland on 8 December 1965 and handed over office on 31 December 1979. He was affiliated to the Party of Farmers, Traders and Independents (BGB/PAI), which became the Swiss People's Party in 1972.
During his office time he held the following departments:
Federal Department of Transport, Communications and Energy (1966–1967)
Federal Military Department (1968)
Federal Department of Transport, Communications and Energy (1968)
Federal Military Department (1969–1979)He was President of the Swiss Confederation twice in 1971 and 1976.
His name is popularly remembered as the nickname of a Swiss Armed Forces ordonnance item, an olive-green jumper officially named Trikothemd 75, but commonly known as Gnägi.Simonetta Sommaruga
Simonetta Sommaruga (born 14 May 1960) is a Swiss politician of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland who is a current member of the Swiss Federal Council, the federal government of Switzerland, and head of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications. She previously served as head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (the Swiss justice minister). She served as Vice President of the Swiss Confederation for the year 2014, and in 2015 succeeded to the role of President. Subsequently, she returned to the Vice-Presidency in 2019.Ueli Maurer
Ulrich "Ueli" Maurer (born 1 December 1950) is a Swiss politician who is a member of the Swiss Federal Council. Formerly head of the Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (the Swiss defence minister), Maurer has been the head of the Federal Department of Finance (the Swiss finance minister) since 1 January 2016.
As a leading figure in the Swiss People's Party, he was elected by the Swiss Federal Assembly to succeed Federal Councillor Samuel Schmid in the Swiss Federal Council election of 10 December 2008 and took office on 1 January 2009.
Maurer served as Vice-President of the Swiss Confederation in 2012 and 2018 and as President of the Swiss Confederation for the years 2013 and 2019. He was also reelected Federal Councillor in the Swiss Federal Council election of 8 December 2015.University of Fribourg
The University of Fribourg (French: Université de Fribourg; German: Universität Freiburg) is a university in the city of Fribourg, Switzerland.The roots of the university can be traced back to 1580, when the notable Jesuit Peter Canisius founded the Collège Saint-Michel in the City of Fribourg. In 1763, an Academy of law was founded by the state of Fribourg which formed the nucleus of the present Law Faculty. The University of Fribourg was finally created in 1889 by an Act of the parliament of the Swiss Canton of Fribourg.The University of Fribourg is Switzerland’s only bilingual university and offers full curricula in both French and German, two of Switzerland's national languages. Students number about 10,000; there are about 200 tenured professors and 700 other academic teaching and research personnel. The Misericorde Campus, constructed between 1939–42, was designed by the architects Honegger and Dumas, students of Swiss architect Le Corbusier.There are five faculties: Catholic theology, law, natural sciences, humanities, and economics & social sciences.University of Lausanne
The University of Lausanne (UNIL; French: Université de Lausanne) in Lausanne, Switzerland was founded in 1537 as a school of theology, before being made a university in 1890. As of fall 2017, about 15,000 students and 3,300 employees study and work at the university. Approximately 1,500 international students attend the university (120 nationalities), which has a wide curriculum including exchange programs with world-renowned universities.
Since 2005, the University follows the requirements of the Bologna process. The 2011 Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked the University of Lausanne 116th globally. The CWTS Leiden Ranking 2015 ranks the University of Lausanne 11th in Europe and 41st globally, out of 750 universities.Together with the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) the university forms a vast campus at the shores of Lake Geneva.University of Zurich
The University of Zurich (UZH, German: Universität Zürich), located in the city of Zürich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 25,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy.
Currently, the university has seven faculties: Philosophy, Human Medicine, Economic Sciences, Law, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Theology and Veterinary Medicine. The university offers the widest range of subjects and courses of any Swiss higher education institution. As of October 2018, 23 Nobel laureates and 1 Turing Award winner have been affiliated with University of Zurich as alumni, faculty or researchers.
President of the Swiss Confederation (list)