Parliamentary opposition in a consensus and non-parliamentary democracy: the case of Switzerland

Andrea Pilotti, Jan Rosset (Université de Genève) & Yannis Papadopoulos (Université de Lausanne)

With its collegial coalition government that includes all major parties and cannot be dismissed by the legislature, Switzerland has little tradition of parliamentary opposition. Yet recent changes, including the parliamentary reforms carried out in the 1990s with the goal of empowering the Federal Assembly, an increased polarization of the party system and a growing mediatization of party politics, call for a reassessment of opposition behavior in the Swiss parliament. Our analyses of bills and roll call votes between  1999 and 2011 reveal two important trends in that regard. First, with a substantial increase in the number of bills initiated from within the Federal Assembly, there is a sign of a progressive emancipation of the parliament as a whole, although government bills still enjoy high support. Second, the rise and the radicalization of the populist right (SVP) has led to the emergence of a second pole of opposition in Swiss politics, adding to the one formed by parties from the left. The SVP, a governmental party, has de facto become the most opposition-like party in Swiss politics. It sponsors far more parliamentary bills than it used to and its members have become the least supportive of government in final passage votes. Although the high point of these changes coincides with the economic crisis, we argue that these developments have to be read as the result of long term transformations initiated at the beginning of - or even before - the period under consideration.



Rosset Jan, Pilotti Andrea, Papadopoulos Yannis (2018), "Switzerland : When Opposition is in Government", dans De Giorgi Elisabetta, Ilonszki Gabriella (eds.) Opposition Parties in European Legislatures : Conflict or Consensus ?, Abingdon, Routledge, pp. 211-228.

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