Council of States

Ständerat (German)
Conseil des États (French)
Consiglio degli Stati (Italian)
Cussegl dals Stadis (Romansh)
Coat of arms or logo
Brigitte Häberli-Koller, The Centre
since 28th November 2022
First Vice President
Eva Herzog, SP/PS
since 14th December 2022
Second Vice President
Lisa Mazzone, Greens
since 28th November 2022
Political groups
  The Centre (14)
  FDP/PLR (12)
  SVP/UDC (7)
  Independent (1)
  SP/PS (6)
  GPS/PES (5)
  vacant (1)
Two-round system (42 seats)
Proportional representation (4 seats: Neuchâtel and Jura)
Last election
October–November 2019
Meeting place
Federal Palace of Switzerland, Bern

The Council of States[1] is the upper house of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland, with the National Council being the lower house. It comprises 46 members.[2]

Twenty of the country's cantons are represented by two Councillors each. Six cantons, traditionally called "half cantons", are represented by one Councillor each for historical reasons. These are Obwalden, Nidwalden, Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft, Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Appenzell Innerrhoden.[3] The Councillors serve for four years, and are not bound in their vote to instructions from the cantonal authorities.

Electoral system

Under the Swiss Federal Constitution, the mode of election to the Council of States is left to the cantons, the provision being that it must be a democratic method. All cantons now provide for the councilors to be chosen by popular election, although historically it was typically the cantons' legislatures that elected representatives to Bern.

Despite this freedom the Constitution provides the cantons, with the exception of the cantons of Neuchâtel and Jura (which use proportional representation to elect their councilors), councilors are elected through an up to two-round system of voting. In the first round of voting, candidates must obtain an absolute majority of the vote in order to be elected. If no candidate receives an absolute majority in the first round of voting then a second round is held in which a simple plurality is sufficient to be elected. The top two finishing candidates in the second round are elected.[4]

However, eligibility to vote varies according to the applicable cantonal law. One notable variation is that qualified foreigners may vote in Neuchâtel and Jura,[5] and the minimum voting age is 16 in Glarus.

In all the cantons except Appenzell Innerrhoden the councillors are elected concurrently with the members of the National Council. In Appenzell Innerrhoden the representative is elected by the popular assembly (Landsgemeinde) during the April before the national vote.

Working languages

In debates, councilors can choose any of the federal languages, usually the one they are most proficient in: German, French, Italian, or Romansh.[6] German (High German) and French are the most frequently used. While the National Council offers simultaneous interpretation for German and French (since 1960) and Italian (since about 2000), the Council of States offers none. Councilors are expected to understand at least two languages, German and French.[7]


Issues before the council pass with a majority of the votes cast. The president of the council typically does not vote, unless there is a tie. In three cases, votes require a majority in both councils in order to pass: emergency legislation, votes on subsidies, guarantees, or any expenditure of more than 20 million CHF on a non-recurring basis, or 2 million CHF on a recurring basis. In any case, where a majority of the council is required, the president of the council will vote.[8]

Until 2014, votes in the chamber were conducted with members raising their hands to be counted. After Politnetz, a Swiss political information platform, recorded a 2012 vote regarding an import ban on reptile skins, it found that the official vote count differed from what was shown in the video.[9] In what was called "Stöckligate", Politnetz, shows that several votes on the matter all resulted in miscounts.[10] (The name Stöckligate refers to a colloquial name for the Council of States. A stöckli is a second home built on a farm for the elder farmer after the property has been deeded to the heirs. The name is applied to the chamber as it is viewed as having older members than the National Council.).[11] As a result of the affair, council member This Jenny introduced a bill to require electronic voting.[9]

Since 1 March 2014, votes in the Council of states are conducted electronically with a tally shown on electronic display boards. The rule changes also allowed for disclosure of how members voted. The recorded votes are made public for votes on overall bills, final votes, or votes that require a qualified majority. Names and votes will be published if 10 members make the request.[12]


Main article: List of members of the Swiss Council of States (2019–2023)

Further information: List of members of the Swiss Council of States (2011–2015) and List of members of the Swiss Council of States (2007–2011)

Council members earn a base salary of 26,000 CHF per year plus a 440 CHF per diem for attending sessions of the council or the committees. Members also receive 33,000 CHF per year for staff and material expenses. Members also receive food, travel and hotel allowances and a pension contribution. The Swiss government estimates that a member typically receives 130,000 to 150,000 CHF per year.[13]

Seats by party

Seats by party at the Council of States of Switzerland (2003-2019)
Parties Ideology 2003 2007 2011 2015 2019
Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP/PDC) Christian democracy 15 15 13 13 13
FDP.The Liberals (FDP/PRD) Classical liberalism 14 12 11 13 12
Social Democratic Party (SPS/PSS) Social democracy 9 9 11 12 9
Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) National conservatism 8 7 5 5 6
Green Party (GPS/PES) Green politics 2 2 1 5
Green Liberal Party (GLP/PVL) Green liberalism 1 2
Conservative Democratic Party (BDP/PBD) Conservatism / Economic liberalism 1 1
Independent Independent 1 1 1
Total 46 46 46 46 46

Population per seat

The Council of States represents the federal nature of Switzerland: seats are distributed by state (canton), not by population. Most cantons send 2 representatives, while the historic half-cantons; Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landshaft, each send one.[3] Consequently, the number of people represented by a single seat in the Council of State varies by a factor of 45.8, from 16,000 for the half-canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden to 733,050 for each of the two seats for the canton of Zurich.

Abbr Canton Seats Population ¹ per seat ² 
ZH Zurich 2 1,466,100 733,050 1.0
BE Berne 2 1,017,200 508,600 1.4
VD Vaud 2 773,200 386,600 1.9
AG Aargau 2 653,500 326,750 2.2
BL Basel-Landschaft 1 283,200 283,200 2.6
SG St. Gall 2 499,000 249,500 2.9
GE Geneva 2 484,400 242,200 3.0
LU Lucerne 2 398,700 199,350 3.7
BS Basel-Stadt 1 191,800 191,800 3.8
TI Ticino 2 351,900 175,950 4.2
VS Valais 2 335,600 167,800 4.4
FR Fribourg 2 307,400 153,700 4.8
TG Thurgau 2 267,400 133,700 5.5
SO Solothurn 2 266,400 133,200 5.5
GR Grisons 2 196,600 98,300 7.5
NE Neuchâtel 2 178,100 89,050 8.2
SZ Schwyz 2 154,100 77,050 9.5
ZG Zug 2 122,100 61,050 12.0
AR Appenzell Ausserrhoden 1 54,500 54,500 13.5
NW Nidwalden 1 42,400 42,400 17.3
SH Schaffhausen 2 79,800 39,900 18.4
OW Obwalden 1 37,100 37,100 19.8
JU Jura 2 72,800 36,400 20.1
GL Glarus 2 40,000 20,000 36.7
UR Uri 2 36,000 18,000 40.7
AI Appenzell Innerrhoden 1 16,000 16,000 45.8
Overall 46 8,325,200 180,983 4.1

Notes: ¹ Population data from 2015 ([14]). ² Relative representation compared to Zürich.

Notes and references


See also


  1. ^ (German: Ständerat, French: Conseil des États, Italian: Consiglio degli Stati, Romansh: Cussegl dals Stadis)
  2. ^ "The Council of States" (official site). Berne, Switzerland: The Swiss Parliament. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Member of the Council of States by Canton" (official site). Berne, Switzerland: The Swiss Parliament. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Elections 2015:How the elections to the Council of States are organised: process, rules and principal stages". – A service of the Confederation, cantons and communes (official site). Berne, Switzerland: The Swiss Confederation. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Gemeinden und Kantone mit Stimm- und Wahlrecht für Ausländer". (in German). Bundesamt für Statistik. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  6. ^ "Art. 8 Bundesversammlung, SR 441.1 SpG (Bundesgesetz über die Landessprachen und die Verständigung zwischen den Sprachgemeinschaften)" (official site) (in German, French, Italian, and Romansh). Berne, Switzerland: The Swiss Federal Council. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  7. ^ "Die Kabinen der Simultanübersetzer" [The Cabins of the Simultaneous Interpreters] (in German). Swiss Parliament. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  8. ^ "Lexikon of Parliamentary Terms". Parliament of Switzerland. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Jenny fordert neue Abstimmung über elektronische Stimmabgabe". Tages Anzeiger (in German). 12 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Politnetz darf weiter im Ständerat filmen – vorerst". Blick (in German). 10 December 2012.
  11. ^ Adrian Vatter (29 June 2018). Das politische System der Schweiz (in German). Nomos Verlag. p. 342. ISBN 9783845289540.
  12. ^ "Standing Orders of the Council of States". Government of Switzerland. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  13. ^ "Salary of the members of parliament". Swiss Confederation. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  14. ^ Population data 2015 Archived 5 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine accessed 28 July 2016