New Federal Councillors elected in Switzerland: What you need to know
At a vote on December 7, members of the Swiss government elected two new members of the Federal Council - Switzerland’s version of the executive branch. After one vote went down to the wire, Albert Rösti and Elisabeth Baume-Schneider were chosen to replace Ueli Maurer and Simonetta Sommaruga.
Who are the Swiss Federal Council?
In Switzerland, instead of a single figurehead like a president or prime minister, the executive branch in the alpine nation is split between a seven-member council. While there is a president of Switzerland, the role is mostly seen as symbolic, as the president only serves for a year and is meant to be a “first among equals.”
Members of the council are tasked with running the various federal ministries in Bern, ranging from finance and healthcare to justice and transport. Each federal councillor is a member of a political party, but is meant to work with other members of the council regardless of affiliation, and must secure enough votes from both houses of parliament in order to be elected.
Federal Council elections in Switzerland 2022
The latest round of elections was sparked by the announcement that long-time finance minister Ueli Maurer was retiring. This was followed by the confirmation that Minister for Energy, Simmonetta Sommaruga, would be stepping down so that she could care for her ailing husband.
To replace Maurer, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) set up a contest between Albert Rösti of Canton Bern and Hans-Ueli Vogt of Canton Zurich. At the same time, to replace Sommaruga, the Social Democratic Party (SP) chose two candidates to face the vote, with Elisabeth Baume-Schneider of the Jura facing Eva Herzog of Basel.
Albert Rösti chosen to represent SVP in Federal Council
At the first SVP ballot, National Councillor Albert Rösti secured 131 votes to easily earn his position in the Federal Council. In a short speech, given to 20 minuten, he said that he would “take office full of vigour” and thanked members of both houses for their trust. Members of Rösti's family were seen embracing in the public gallery as the result was read out.
Albert Rösti, a former entrepreneur, joined the National Council in 2011 and was chairman of the SVP between 2016 and 2020. He had previously run for Federal Council in 2015, before withdrawing his candidacy two weeks into the campaign.
Underdog Elisabeth Baume-Schneider the new SP councillor
The SP vote was more controversial as both candidates were denied a majority by a third candidate, SP state councillor Daniel Jositsch. However, after three rounds of voting, Elisabeth Baume-Schneider was selected with 123 votes - exactly the tally needed for a majority.
Seen as the underdog by the Swiss media, Baume-Schneider, a former social worker, becomes the first-ever Federal Councillor from Canton Jura - having represented the canton in the Council or States since 2019. Both Baume-Schneider and Rösti will officially join the council on January 1, 2023.