Title Five. Federal Authorities
Chapter 1. General Provisions
Article 143. Eligibility for election
Any person eligible to vote may be elected to the National Council, the Federal Council or the Federal Supreme Court.
Article 144. Incompatibility
- No member of the National Council, of the Council of States, of the Federal Council or judge of the Federal Supreme Court may at the same time be a member of any other of these bodies.
- No member of the Federal Council or full-time judges of the Federal Supreme Court may hold any other federal or cantonal office or undertake any other gainful economic activity.
- The law may provide for further forms of incompatibility.
Article 145. Term of office
The members of the National Council and of the Federal Council as well as the Federal Chancellor are elected for a term of office of four years. Judges of the Federal Supreme Court have a term of office of six years.
Article 146. State liability
The Confederation shall be liable for damage or loss unlawfully caused by its organs in the exercise of official activities.
Article 147. Consultation procedure
The Cantons, the political parties and interested groups shall be invited to express their views when preparing important legislation or other projects of substantial impact as well as in relation to significant international treaties.
Chapter 2. Federal Assembly
Section 1. Organisation
Article 148. Status
- Subject to the rights of the People and the Cantons, the Federal Assembly is the supreme authority of the Confederation.
- The Federal Assembly comprises two chambers, the National Council and the Council of States; both chambers shall be of equal standing.
Article 149. Composition and election of the National Council
- The National Council is composed of 200 representatives of the People.
- The representatives are elected directly by the People according to a system of proportional representation. A general election is held every four years.
- Each Canton constitutes an electoral constituency.
- The seats are allocated to the Cantons according to their relative populations. Each Canton has at least one seat.
Article 150. Composition and election of the Council of States
- The Council of States is composed of 46 representatives of the Cantons.
- The Cantons of Obwalden, Nidwalden, Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft, Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Appenzell Innerrhoden each elect one representative; the other Cantons each elect two representatives.
- The Cantons determine the rules for the election of their representatives to the Council of States.
Article 151. Sessions
- The Councils convene in session regularly. The convening of sessions is governed by law.
- The Federal Council or one quarter of the members of either Council may request that the Councils be convened for an extraordinary session.
Article 152. Presidency
Each Council elects a President from its members for a term of one year, together with a first Vice-President and a second Vice-President. Re-election for the following year is not permitted.
Article 153. Parliamentary committees
- Each Council forms committees from its members.
- The law may provide for joint committees.
- The law may delegate specific powers, which may not be legislative in their nature, to committees.
- In order to fulfil their duties, the committees have the right to information and to inspect documents and the power to conduct investigations. The extent of such rights and powers is governed by the law.
Article 154. Parliamentary groups
The members the Federal Assembly may form parliamentary groups.
Article 155. Parliamentary Services
The Federal Assembly has parliamentary services at its disposal. It may call on the services of offices of the Federal Administration. The details are regulated by law.
Section 2. Procedure
Article 156. Separate proceedings
- The proceedings of the National Council and Council of States take place separately.
- Decisions of the Federal Assembly require the agreement of both Chambers.
- Provision shall be made by the law to ensure that in the event of disagreement between the Councils decisions are made on:
- the validity or partial invalidity of a popular initiative;
- the implementation of a popular initiative in the form of a general proposal that has been adopted by the People;
- the implementation of a Federal Decree initiating a total revision of the Federal Constitution that has been approved by the People;
- the budget or any amendment to it.
Article 157. Joint proceedings
- The National Council and Council of States hold joint proceedings as the United Federal Assembly under the presidency of the President of the National Council in order to:
- conduct elections;
- decide on conflicts of jurisdiction between the highest federal authorities;
- decide on applications for pardons.
- The United Federal Assembly also convenes for special events and to hear declarations made by the Federal Council.
Article 158. Public meetings
Meetings of the Councils are held in public. The law may provide for exceptions.
Article 159. Quorum and required majority
- The Councils are quorate if a majority of their members is present.
- Decisions are taken in both Chambers and in the United Federal Assembly by the majority of those who vote.
- However, the consent of an absolute majority of the members of each of the two Councils is required for:
- a declaration that a federal act is urgent;
- provisions on subsidies, guarantee credits or spending ceilings that involve new non-recurrent expenditure of more than 20 million francs or new recurrent expenditure of more than 2 million francs;
- an increase in overall expenditure in the case of extraordinary financial requirements in terms of Article 126 paragraph 3.
- The Federal Assembly may, by ordinance, adjust subsidies made in terms of paragraph 3 letter b in line with inflation.
Article 160. Right to submit initiatives and motions
- Any Council member, parliamentary group, parliamentary committee or Canton has the right to submit an initiative to the Federal Assembly.
- Council members and the Federal Council have the right to submit motions on business that is under discussion.
Article 161. Prohibition of voting instructions
- No member of the Federal Assembly may vote on the instructions of another person.
- Members must disclose their links to interest groups.
Article 162. Immunity
- The members of the Federal Assembly and the Federal Council as well as the Federal Chancellor may not be held liable for statements that they make in the Assembly or in its organs.
- The law may provide for further forms of immunity and extend its scope to include other persons.
Section 3. Powers
Article 163. Form of Federal Assembly enactments
- The Federal Assembly shall enact provisions that establish binding legal rules in the form of federal acts or ordinances.
- Other enactments are promulgated in the form of a federal decree; a federal decree that is not subject to a referendum is known as a “simple federal decree”.
Article 164. Legislation
- All significant provisions that establish binding legal rules must be enacted in the form of a federal act. These include in particular fundamental provisions on:
- the exercise of political rights;
- the restriction of constitutional rights;
- the rights and obligations of persons;
- those liable to pay tax as well as the subject matter and assessment of taxes and duties;
- the duties and services of the Confederation;
- the obligations of the Cantons in relation to the implementation and enforcement of federal law;
- the organisation and procedure of the federal authorities.
- Legislative powers may be delegated by federal act unless this is prohibited by the Federal Constitution.
Article 165. Emergency legislation
- Federal acts whose coming into force cannot be delayed (emergency federal acts) may be declared urgent by an absolute majority of the members of each of the two Councils and be brought into force immediately. Such acts must be of limited duration.
- If a referendum is requested on an emergency federal act, the act must be repealed one year after being passed by the Federal Assembly if it has not in the meantime been approved by the People.
- An emergency federal act that does not have the Constitution as its basis must be repealed one year after being passed by the Federal Assembly if it has not in the meantime been approved by the People and the Cantons. Any such act must be of limited duration.
- An emergency federal act that is not approved in a popular vote may not be renewed.
Article 166. Foreign relations and international treaties
- The Federal Assembly shall participate in shaping foreign policy and supervise the maintenance of foreign relations.
- It shall approve international treaties, with the exception of those that are concluded by the Federal Council under a statutory provision or an international treaty.
Article 167. Finance
The Federal Assembly determines the expenditure of the Confederation, adopt the budget and approve the federal accounts.
Article 168. Appointments
- The Federal Assembly elects the members of the Federal Council, the Federal Chancellor, the judges of the Federal Supreme Court and, in times of war, the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces (“the General”).
- The law may authorise the Federal Assembly to make or confirm other appointments.
Article 169. Supervisory control
- The Federal Assembly supervises the Federal Council and the Federal Administration, the federal courts and other bodies entrusted with the tasks of the Confederation.
- Official secrecy does not apply in dealings with the special delegations of supervisory committees that are established under the law.
Article 170. Evaluation of effectiveness
The Federal Assembly shall ensure that federal measures are evaluated with regard to their effectiveness.
Article 171. Tasks of the Federal Council
The Federal Assembly may assign functions to the Federal Council. The details are regulated by law, and in particular the means by which the Federal Assembly may intervene in matters that fall within the remit of the Federal Council.
Article 172. Relations between the Confederation and the Cantons
- The Federal Assembly shall ensure the maintenance of good relations between the Confederation and the Cantons.
- It shall guarantee the cantonal constitutions.
- It shall decide whether to approve intercantonal agreements and treaties between Cantons and foreign countries where the Federal Council or a Canton raises an objection to any such treaty.
Article 173. Further duties and powers
- The Federal Assembly has the following additional duties and powers:
- taking measures to safeguard external security and the independence and neutrality of Switzerland.
- taking measures to safeguard internal security.
- if extraordinary circumstances require, issuing ordinances or simple federal decrees in order to fulfil its duties under letters (a) and (b).
- regulating active service and mobilising the armed forces or sections thereof for this purpose.
- taking measures to enforce federal law.
- ruling on the validity of popular initiatives that meet the formal requirements.
- participating in the general planning of state activities.
- deciding on individual acts where a federal act expressly so provides.
- deciding on conflicts of jurisdiction between the highest federal authorities.
- issuing pardons and deciding on amnesties.
- The Federal Assembly also deals with matters that fall within the remit of the Confederation and are not the responsibility of any other authority.
- Other duties and powers may be delegated by law to the Federal Assembly.