Switzerland’s federal and cantonal political parties hardly interact: Panel

Twenty-four participants recently gathered in Bern for the Swiss roundtable on Political Parties and Civil Society In Federal Countries.

Most participants especially those from political parties agreed that in Switzerland there is only limited interaction between officials from federal and cantonal (state) level organizations.

A dualist system appears to prevail in Switzerland, with parties at the cantonal level mostly concerned with cantonal politics while parties at the national level concentrate on national issues.

Many participants agreed that since there are an increasing number of policy issues which should be addressed across all layers of the state, parties should increasingly organize along policy lines, and form policy-oriented committees composed of party representatives from all state levels.

There was however little agreement on whether federalism generally weakens party organizations. Some attendees strongly supported the existence of independent party organizations at the cantonal (state) level while others maintained that party adherents increasingly encounter difficulties being present where decisions are shaped.

The participants began with a short welcome from the host, Ms. Sandra Maissen, secretary of the Bern-based Conference of the Cantonal Governments.

Ms. Maissen was followed by Prof. Andreas Ladner, the co-ordinator of the event, who gave a short presentation on Swiss federalism, political parties and interest groups in Switzerland. Thomas Minger, the co-coordinator from the Conference of the Cantonal Governments spoke about current challenges to interest representation in federalist countries from the perspective of the practitioner.

Reinold Herber, a senior adviser at the Forum, explained to participants the activities of the Forum and the objectives of the Global Dialogue program.

The event was held on November 30, 2009.

The participants included:
Hans Ambühl, General Secretary, Swiss Conference of Cantonal Education Principals;
Silvia Bär, General Secretary, SVP Schweiz Party;
Lorenz Bösch, President, Conference of Cantonal Governments;
Doris Fischer-Taeschler, Party President, FDP.Die Liberalen AG Party;
Jan Fivaz, Foundation Member, Smartvote;
Pascal Furer, Party Secretary, SVP AG Party;
Daniel Furter, Party Secretary SP BE Party;
Reinold Herber, Senior Advisor, Forum of Federations
Paul Huber, Former Cantonal Minister, SP LU Party;
Hendrik C. Krauskopf, Scientific worker, Institut de hautes études en administration publique (IDHEAP);
Andreas Ladner, Professor & Roundtable Co-ordinator, Institut de hautes études en administration publique (IDHEAP);
Georg Lutz, Project manager, Swiss Foundation for Research in Social Sciences (FORS);
Sandra Maissen, General Secretary, Conference of Cantonal Governments;
Thomas Minger, Head of Section, Conference of Cantonal Governments;
David Müller, FDP.Die Liberalen ZH Party;
Raimund Rodewald, Executive Director, Landschaftsschutz Schweiz Foundation;
Margreth Schär, Factional President of Cantonal Parliament, SP BE Party; Martin Schwegler, Party President, CVP LU Party;
Matthias Schenker, Hed of Section, Santésuisses (NGO);
Otto Sieber, General Secretary, Pro Natura – Schweizerischer Bund für Naturschutz (NGO);
Jean-François Steiert, MP, SP FR Party;
Geo Taglioni, Head of Policy and Participation Section, Schweizerische Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Jugendverbände (SAJV);
Emanuel Waeber-Vonlanthen, Party President, CVP FR Party;
Roman Widmer, Assistant Secretary Conference of Cantonal Governments.

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