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Council of States (Switzerland)
Council of States (Switzerland)

The Council of States (German: Ständerat, French: Conseil des États, Italian: Consiglio degli Stati, Romansh: Cussegl dals Stadis) is the smaller chamber of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland. It is considered the Assembly's upper house, with the National Council being the lower house. It comprises 46 members.[3]

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.[4]

The Councillors serve for four years, and are not bound in their vote to instructions from the cantonal authorities.


Under the Swiss Federal Constitution, the mode of election to the Council of States is left to the cantons, the proviso being that it must be a democratic method. All cantons now provide for the councillors to be chosen by popular election (historically it was typically the cantons' parliaments that elected representatives to Bern), however those eligible to vote varies according to the applicable cantonal law (notable variances are that qualified foreigners may vote in Neuchâtel, and the minimum voting age is 16 in Glarus).

In all cantons except for Appenzell Innerrhoden, the councillors are elected concurrently with the members of the National Council. In the Appenzell Innerrhoden the representative is elected by the physically convened popular assembly (Landsgemeinde

With the exception of the cantons of Neuchâtel and Jura, where a proportional representation election system is used, the representatives are elected by majority vote in either one or two rounds of voting.[5]

Working languages

In debates, councilors can choose any of the federal languages, usually the one they are most proficient with: German, French, Italian, or Romansh.[6] German (High German) and French are frequently used.

List of members

Seats by party

Past seat compositions by party

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.[4] Consequently, the number of people represented by a single seat in the Council of State varies by a factor of 40, from 15,000 for Appenzell Innerrhoden to 600,000 for Zurich.

Notes: ¹ Population data from 2015 ([7]).

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