I always thought that Switzerland was neither a monarchy nor a republic. The members of the federal council are not here by inheritance, nor are they elected by the people. Instead, they are elected by the parliament.

This system has been recently confirmed, as there was recently a vote where 76.3% of voters wanted to keep the current system, and did not want to elect the government themselves. The main argument in favour of the current system is that it prevents both political extremists and rich rockstars to getting access to the government. Instead, only competent politicians with moderate positions and that already distinguished themselves within the parliament can get votes form the majority of the parliament.

So the question is : Does this system make the Swiss Confederation a de-facto republic, or not?


Indirect election of leaders it's quite common. Sometimes it's more a technicality than a matter of political relevance, like for the President of the United States, sometimes it's an important aspect of political life, as in the case of parliamentary republics. The particularity of Switzerland is the directorial system, that is to say the collegial rule of the federal council, more than the way they are elected.

In practical terms nowadays the term republic means anything that is not a monarchy, from the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This may seem confusing, but this was the important distinction back in the day when the term became widespread, because it also meant the difference between dictatorship and democracy. Nowadays it only indicate the form of state, not the form of government, that's why Switzerland is indeeed a republic.

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    +1 Incidentally, the original “Directoire” is generally considered to be one of the avatars of the First French Republic (even though it's obviously very different from what its constitution foresaw) and as such a central reference for all modern uses of the word.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 15 '15 at 13:18

Technically, perhaps not. Since they're appointed rather than directly elected by the people, they don't fall under the definition of a republic:

A state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

The Federal Council are not elected representatives. They're appointed by the Federal Assembly. No definition includes "the elected representatives' elected representatives". So technically, they're not a republic.

However, for all intents and purposes, they are. The Federal Assembly answer to the people. Also, let's not forget that referenda are the primary means of decision-making, so there's minimal risk.

So yes, I'd say they are essentially a de-facto republic. It's a technicality, really.

  • Oh, and does it matter who holds the title of president ? Because it is another Federal Council member every year, and the title is entirely symbolic (i.e. During the year of presidency it has no more power than the 6 other members). The president is definitely not elected, it's just the federal council member that wasn't president for the longest time.
    – Bregalad
    Apr 10 '15 at 14:39
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    Can you expand a bit why adding a layer of abstraction would make the system not qualify as a Republic? Does this also disqualify the US, because of the electoral college?
    – lazarusL
    Apr 10 '15 at 14:43
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    Edited. Also, yes, that would disqualify the US. Apr 10 '15 at 14:56
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    It's hard to take seriously an answer which disqualifies the US as a republic.
    – Hugh
    Apr 11 '15 at 3:24
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    @PointlessSpike - I would differentiate the US because the only task of electors in the electoral college is to choose a President, while the Swiss Federal Assembly exists separately and has other duties which have nothing to do with choosing the Council members.
    – Bobson
    Apr 12 '15 at 3:02

Depends on who you ask and what you mean. In the purest term, a republic (res Publica) is a a nation where the country is considered a public matter. It is contrasted by a Res Privitata, where the government is considered the ruler's private property (i.e. A True Monarchy). In this form, Switzerland is indeed a Republic.

In American English, Republic carries the same definition as a "Representative Democracy" which would disbar Switzerland, which is a (Semi-)Direct Democracy.

The definition of Repbulic is a nation where the head of state is not a monarch would qualify countries such as the Soviet Union (which they in fact claim) though the fact that the candidates up for office were selected by the Communist Party, which basically meant the government selected the pool of politicians, thus fails the broadest definition. This is similar to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (aka North Korea) which is not Democratic, of the People, or a Republic.


**the main filter to remain a republic is to eliminate the influence of money on the selection of representatives. the council is selected by elected officials who happen to be under that guideline. so yes , switzerland is indeed a true republic. **

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