In Switzerland (at least in recent times), the Federal Council issues explanatory booklets for matters subject to popular votes (e.g. constitutional amendments and initiatives, referendums against government or parliamentary decisions). In these booklets, the subjects are explained in context and the arguments for "both" sides are presented.

It usually if not always contains the recommendation from the Federal Council and the Parliament (as expected, usually a "no" for initiatives, a "yes" for federal decisions; I should ask a different question on if they've ever supported a popular initiative directly or decided to be against their own decisions).

Has the Federal Council ever taken a different position than the Parliament for any popular votes? Can (as in, would it violate a constitutional principle if) the Federal Council even take a different position in case of a referendum against a law passed by the Parliament?

1 Answer 1


In Switzerland, the Executive branch (Federal Council) is elected by the Legislator. This combined with the System of Concordance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concordance_system) makes it very unlikely that the two branches don't share an opinion.

Although the federal Council sometimes has a hand in crafting Legislation, the parliament is the legislator and can create laws without the consent of the Federal Council. So Yes in principle it is possible that the Federal Council and the parliament don't have the same opinion.

I don't know of an example where they did not have the same position but the chance is very high since there have been 647 popular votes in Switzerland from 1848 to 2021. https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/de/home/statistiken/politik/abstimmungen.html#-1627820108

And yes the Federal Council and the Parliament do sometimes Support Initiatives. As an example, the Parlement Supported the Initiative to ban absinth: https://www.bk.admin.ch/ch/d/pore/vi/vis9.html But I was only able to find this example and it's from 1908 here is the full list: https://www.bk.admin.ch/ch/d/pore/vi/vis_2_2_5_3.html

  • Thank you! Actually the absinth example you found is an example of both. The Federal Council recommended the Parliment to recommend the rejection of the initiative apparently.
    – xngtng
    Dec 5, 2021 at 13:08

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