A master wine grower by trade, he was elected to the National Council since 2003. On 9 December 2015, he was elected by the Federal Assembly to the Federal Council in replacement of Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.
Swiss Federal Council
After the Swiss People's Party (SVP) won a record vote of over 29% in the 2015 general elections, Federal Council member Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf announced she would not run for re-election on the Council. She had been expelled from the SVP shortly after her election, and she then founded the Conservative Democratic Party.
The SVP was expected to take Widmer-Schlumpf's seat, and put forward three candidates, including Parmelin, who was ultimately elected. Parmelin became the first SVP member of the Federal Council from the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
Parmelin was selected to become head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports, replacing fellow SVP-member Ueli Maurer, who became head of the Federal Department of Finance. Starting in 2019, Parmelin became the head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research.