After the Second World War, a period of
increased prosperity and political consensus followed.
From 1959, the four largest parties shared power;
Switzerland was ruled for nearly half a century by a
standing unity government consisting of three bourgeois
parties and the Social Democrats. Towards the end of the
1990s, the country suffered an economic downturn at the
same time as domestic political contradictions
intensified and the country was exposed to criticism
After a period of international isolation and
economic problems immediately after the Second World
War, Switzerland became relatively successful in the
1950s and 1960s. Prosperity benefited large sections of
the population and paved the way for increased political
consensus. The radical political groups were
marginalized. A new model for government formation
prevailed from 1959, when the four largest parties
agreed on how to divide power.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Switzerland. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
However, after the good years of the 1960s,
Switzerland also felt the economic downturn in the
Western world triggered by the oil crisis of 1973.
Political contradictions were sharpened. French-speaking
residents of the Jura ran a campaign to break out of the
German-speaking canton of Bern. In the end, they
succeeded; In 1979, Jura became the first new canton in
Switzerland since the 19th century.
Political polarization increased during the 1980s as
new issues came to the fore, such as asylum policy and
the relationship with the EU's predecessor EC. Towards
the end of the decade, the economic situation began to
deteriorate, leading to increased social problems.
After negotiations, the government signed a so-called
EEA agreement in May 1992 and applied for membership in
the then EC. But later that year, the Swiss voted in a
referendum to reject the EEA agreement, which would have
given Switzerland access to the EU's internal market,
which, among other things, eliminated trade barriers
between the countries. In doing so, they also put an end
to the EC / EU application (see Foreign Policy and
The outcome of the EEA vote, when the No side won by
a marginal margin, was largely the result of an
intensive campaign by the Swiss People's Party (SVP).
Resistance to the EC / EU and immigration emerged as its
main issues. It gave wind of the sails in the 1995
parliamentary elections and even more in 1999, when the
party went from being the smallest government party to
the second largest, after the Social Democrats. SVP's
strong man Christoph Blocher called for a change in the
"magic formula" for the distribution of government
seats. However, SVP did not meet its requirements.
The large streams of refugees during the turmoil in
the Balkans in the 1990s helped make immigration a hot
topic of debate. Asylum policy was repeatedly the
subject of referendums, with varying results.
At the end of the 1990s, Switzerland's actions during
and after World War II became a dominant issue, both
domestic and foreign. It was revealed that Swiss banks
had retained assets that Jews placed on secret accounts
during the persecution in Nazi Germany. The banks had
not tried to reach relatives of Nazi victims. In
addition, during the war, Switzerland had bought gold
the Nazis had stolen from its victims, sold weapons for
huge sums to the war-torn country, and rejected Jewish
refugees at the border. The revelations shook the Swiss
self-image and tarnished their reputation abroad. Claims
for compensation were raised, primarily in the United
States and by Jewish groups. Eventually, after
protracted processes and boycott threats, both Swiss
banks and the government agreed to pay. The government
and the two largest banks, UBS and Crédit Suisse, set
aside money to support Jewish survivors, relatives and
Jewish groups. The first payments were made in 2002.
Prior to the 2003 elections, the debate on
immigration and asylum policy again dominated. SVP
claimed, among other things, that foreigners were behind
a growing crime in the country. Christoph Blocher, SVP's
poster name, held a particularly high profile on the
issue. The party now became the largest party in
parliament for the first time. Blocher put the
ultimatum: if the party did not get two ministerial
posts, it would go in opposition. The Christian
Democrats were forced to relinquish a post to SVP.
Within the framework of the Swiss consensus spirit,
it was a tumultuous event when one of seven ministerial
posts was moved between the four parties in the standing
unity government. The new government was also
characterized by an internal divide that was contrary to
tradition. Blocher, who became Minister of Justice,
distinguished himself by often appearing to represent
himself and his party, rather than the government. He
also demanded the resignation of other ministers and
made xenophobic statements that plagued other members of
SVP wanted to withdraw the dormant application for EU
membership, but had to settle for a government decision
that the application is only a long-term alternative.
Blocher noted a success with a very restrictive new
asylum law, which was adopted in a 2006 referendum.
In the 2007 election, it became even clearer that the
political landscape had changed. Just as before, the
electoral movement was largely dominated by Blocher, who
resided in his favorite subjects immigration and crime.
The atmosphere was unusually fierce and SVP was again
accused of racism, including by the UN.
When the election results came, it turned out that
SVP received 29 percent of the vote, a record in a Swiss
election. But when Parliament elected ministers, they
caused a slight political earthquake: they refused to
choose the SVP's top name, Justice Minister Blocher.
Instead, after several votes, SVP politician Eveline
Widmer-Schlumpf was appointed. Many MPs were tired of
Blocher's disputed manner and saw him as a threat to the
traditional spirit of consensus. SVP's second candidate,
Defense Minister Samuel Schmid, was re-elected.
SVP's leadership raged against the action and decided
that the party should leave the government. However,
when Widmer-Schlumpf and Schmid accepted the
appointments, they were excluded from the parliamentary
group. Their supporters later formed the Civil
Democratic Party (BDP).
SVP's time in opposition lasted only one year. At the
end of 2008, Schmid resigned following a scandal in the
defense, and Parliament then appointed an SVP politician
as a new minister. Widmer-Schlumpf remained as
representative of the BDP, and thus now included five
parties in the Assembly government.
Switzerland was also hit by the global financial
crisis that was triggered in 2008 and the country's
banks suffered major losses. The problems spread to
other parts of the economy and unemployment rose. The
decline in 2009 was still relatively modest in
Switzerland; the economy shrank by about 2 percent and
growth then recovered.
SVP continued to drive an anti-immigrant line. The
party succeeded in referendums to support, among other
things, a ban on minarets and for the automatic
expulsion of foreign nationals who commit serious crimes
(see Calendar). Switzerland was criticized for racist
misconduct in the debate and for discriminatory
legislation, including by the Council of Europe and UN
In the 2011 parliamentary elections, SVP backed down
somewhat, after two decades of success, but remained the
largest party. One reason for the decline was the split
within the party after the previous election: some votes
and mandates went to the new BDP. The new Federal
Assembly elected all members of the government,
including Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, who now represented