Social Democratic Party of Switzerland

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Social Democratic Party of Switzerland
Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz (SP) (German)
Parti socialiste suisse (PS) (French)
Partito Socialista Svizzero (PS) (Italian)
Partida Socialdemocrata de la Svizra (PS) (Romansh)
President Christian Levrat
Members in Federal Council Simonetta Sommaruga
Alain Berset
Founded October 21, 1888
Headquarters Spitalgasse 34
CH-3001 Bern
Youth wing Young Socialists Switzerland
Membership  (2010) 35,000[1]
Ideology Social democracy[2]
Political position Left-wing[3]
International affiliation Socialist International
Progressive Alliance
European affiliation Party of European Socialists (associate)
Colours Red
Federal Council
2 / 7
National Council
46 / 200
Council of States
11 / 46
Cantonal legislatures
453 / 2,608
Politics of Switzerland
Political parties

The Social Democratic Party of Switzerland (also rendered as Swiss Socialist Party; German: Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz, SP; French: Parti socialiste suisse, PS; Italian: Partito Socialista Svizzero; Romansh: Partida Socialdemocrata de la Svizra) is a political party in Switzerland.

The party was founded on 21 October 1888, and is currently the second largest of the four leading coalition political parties in Switzerland. It is the left-most party with representatives in the Swiss Federal Council. It is also the second largest political party in the Swiss parliament. The current members in the Swiss Federal Council are: Alain Berset and Simonetta Sommaruga.

The SP is the biggest pro-European party in Switzerland and supports Swiss membership of the European Union, unlike most other Swiss parties and is the only party in Switzerland which wants the defeat of capitalism.[4] The party is a full member of the Socialist International,[5] the Progressive Alliance,[6] and an associate affiliate of the Party of European Socialists.[7]


With its foundation in October 1888, the Social Democratic Party was considered to be the main opposition to the Radicals in government and parliament. After the unsuccessful General strike in 1918, proportional representation was introduced which helped the SP gain 41 seats in parliament.[8] The party was a member of the Labour and Socialist International between 1927 and 1940.[9] After the strike the party took a softer line and in 1943 it became the strongest party in parliament, finally gaining a seat in the cabinet. A second seat followed in 1959.[8] The party's historical archives is today hosted by the Swiss Social Archives.


The SP's positions in the Swiss political spectrum (2007).

The SP supports classical social democratic policies. To that rule, the SP stands for a government offering strong public services. The SP is against far-reaching economic liberalism, in favor of social progressivism, environmental policy with climate change mitigation, for an open foreign policy, and a national security policy based on pacifism.

In economic, financial, and social welfare policy, the SP rejects policies of economic liberalization such as deregulation, lowering taxes for high-income citizens, and decreases in government spending on social insurance. The SP also opposes raising the retirement age. In addition, the SP is a proponent of increasing welfare spending in some areas such as for a publicly financed maternity leave, universal health care and a flexible retirement age. In tax policy the SP opposes the notion of lowering taxes for high-income citizens. By campaigning for the harmonisation of all tax rates in Switzerland, the SP seeks more redistribution. The SP is skeptical toward the privatization of state enterprises. Nonetheless, the SP also promotes more competition in the areas of agriculture and parallel imports.

In social policy, the SP is committed to social equity and an open society. Thus, the SP aims at making working conditions for women in families easier by promoting more external childcare centers and more opportunities for part-time jobs. It also aims at reinforcing sexual equality in terms of eliminating wage differences based on gender, supports civil union for homosexuals and takes an easier stance toward abortions. The SP also rejects strengthening restrictions on asylum seekers and immigrants. Thus, it supports the integration of immigrants by which the immigrants are assigned to immigration procedures immediately after entering the country. The SP has a liberal stance toward drugs and is in favor of publicly regulated heroin consumption and the legalization of cannabis. Nevertheless, the SP supports the smoking ban in restaurants and bars.

In foreign policy the SP promotes further participation by Switzerland in international organizations. It supports immediate entry of Switzerland into the European Union. The SP also stands for a less strict neutrality of Switzerland, and supports increased international efforts on the part of Switzerland in the areas of peace and human rights. However, the SP supports keeping the military neutrality and opposes entry into NATO. Its pacifist stance is also reflected in its military policy: The SP supports reducing the number of Swiss militia while making the military apparatus more professional and scrapping conscription. Another demand of the SP is to end the tradition of gun ownership, using severe and recent examples of abuse in terms of murder as proof.

Together with the Green Party of Switzerland, the Social Democrats have common environmentalist policies, which are reflected in the expansion of ecotax reforms and increased state support for energy saving measures and renewable energies. The SP is against the construction of new roads where possible and instead proposes to shift the transportation of goods from the roads to the railways and the introduction of a cap and trade and traffic management system when it comes to transportation across the Swiss Alps. Furthermore, the SP stands for an expansion of the public transportation system network and opposes nuclear energy.

Popular support[edit]

Percentages of the SP at district level in 2011
Strongest in urban areas, the Social Democrats' support is spread across the country. They hold a quarter of seats in cantonal parliaments, but are the largest party in only one: Basel-Stadt (coloured red above).

In 2003, it held 52 mandates (out of 200) in the Swiss National Council (first chamber of the Swiss parliament); 9 (out of 46) in the second chamber and 2 out of 7 mandates in the Swiss Federal Council (executive body). By 2005, it held 23.8% of the seats in the Swiss Cantonal governments and 23.2% in the Swiss Cantonal parliaments (index "BADAC", weighted with the population and number of seats). At the last legislative elections on 22 October 2007, the party won 19.5% of the popular vote and 43 out of 200 seats.[10]

Parliamentary election results[edit]

Year Votes Seats Rank (seats)
#  % ± pp # ±
1971 452,195 22.9% – 0.6
46 / 200
Decrease 4 1st
1975 477,125 24.9% + 2.0
55 / 200
Increase 9 1st
1979 443,794 24.4% – 0.5
51 / 200
Decrease 4 1st
1983 444,365 22.8% – 1.6
47 / 200
Decrease 4 2nd
1987 353,334 18.4% – 4.4
41 / 200
Decrease 6 3rd
1991 373,664 18.5% + 0.1
41 / 200
Steady 0 2nd
1995 410,136 21.8% + 3.3
54 / 200
Increase 13 1st
1999 438,555 22.5% – 0.7
51 / 200
Decrease 3 1st
2003 490,392 23.3% + 0.8
52 / 200
Increase 1 2nd
2007 450,308 19.5% – 3.8
43 / 200
Decrease 9 2nd
2011 451,236 18.7% – 0.8
46 / 200
Increase 3 2nd


1888–1889 Alexander Reichel
1890–1891 Albert Steck
1892–1894 Eugen Wullschleger
1894–1896 Wilhelm Fürholz
1897 Karl Zgraggen
1898 Paul Brandt
1898–1901 Otto Lang
1901–1902 Joseph Albisser
1902–1908 Gottfried Reimann
1909–1910 Eduard Kessler
1911 Hans Näher
1912–1916 Fritz Studer
1916–1917 Emil Klöti
1918 Jakob Gschwend
1919 Gustav Müller
1919–1936 Ernst Reinhard
1937–1952 Hans Oprecht
1953–1962 Walther Bringolf
1962–1970 Fritz Grütter
1970–1974 Arthur Schmid
1974–1990 Helmut Hubacher
1990–1997 Peter Bodenmann
1997–2000 Ursula Koch
2000–2004 Christiane Brunner
2004–2008 Hans-Jürg Fehr
Since 2008 Christian Levrat

Members of the Swiss Federal Council[edit]

1943–1951 Ernst Nobs
1951–1953 Max Weber
1959–1969 Willy Spühler
1959–1973 Hans-Peter Tschudi
1969–1977 Pierre Graber
1973–1983 Willy Ritschard
1977–1987 Pierre Aubert
1987–1993 René Felber
1983–1995 Otto Stich
1993–2002 Ruth Dreifuss
1995–2010 Moritz Leuenberger
2002–2011 Micheline Calmy-Rey
Since 2010 Simonetta Sommaruga
Since 2011 Alain Berset

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ The Swiss Confederation – a brief guide 2010. Swiss Confederation. 2010. p. 19. 
  2. ^ Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck
  3. ^ The Economist (2015). Switzerland--Country Overview. The Economist. p. 1. 
  4. ^ (German) SP hält an «Überwindung des Kapitalismus» fest - Entscheidung 11 - SF. Entscheidung 11. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.[dead link]
  5. ^ Progressive Politics For A Fairer World. Socialist International. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  6. ^
  7. ^ PES member parties | PES. Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  8. ^ a b Social Democratic Party. (2007-11-30). Retrieved on 2013-09-07.
  9. ^ Kowalski, Werner. Geschichte der sozialistischen arbeiter-internationale: 1923 - 19. Berlin: Dt. Verl. d. Wissenschaften, 1985. p. 323
  10. ^ Nationalrat 2007

External links[edit]