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Modern Switzerland was born in 1848 when the Swiss Confederation came into being and a federal constitution was introduced, with substantial amendments in 1874.

Since 1848 there have been elections roughly every four years ever since.

Since 1947 three or four parties have dominated the political scene. The Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC), formerly the Farmers’, Traders’ and Citizens’ Party (BGB) and Swiss Democratic Party remained in fourth place until 1999 when they came second. Then in 2003 they were the largest party, a position they held in 2007.

The centre left Social Democratic Party (SP/PS) is another successful party which has been influential in the political life of the country. Founded in 1888 they have rarely been in less than first or second place in the National Council of Switzerland. They gained their best results in 1975, but slipped back to third place in 1987. In 1995 and 1999 they held first place, but in 2003 and 2007 they took second place to the more right wing Swiss People’s Party.

The FDP.The Liberals is another key party which is a merger of two older parties, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the smaller Liberal Party. The merger, which took place in 2009 was a reflection of the waning fortunes of, particularly, the FDP. Traditionally coming first or second since 1947, their fortunes changed when they dropped to third place in 1999. Since then their share of the vote has declined from 20.2% in 1995, to 19.9% in 1999, then 17.3% in 2003 and just 15.8% in 2007.

The fourth key party in Switzerland is the Christian Democratic People’s Party (CVP/PDC). Since 1947 they have been consistently third (except for 1987 when they came second). However, in 1999 the party slipped back to fourth place and dropped from an average of 20% of the vote to 15.8%. They declined further in 2003 when they dropped to 14.4% and remained about the same in 2007 when they took 14.5% of the vote and stayed in fourth place.

The President and Vice President are elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for a one year term.

The bicameral Federal Assembly consists of the Council of States with 46 seats consisting of 2 representatives from each canton and 1 from each half canton. Members serve four year terms. The National Council has 200 members elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four year terms.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Switzerland at 5th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 86 (where 100 is least corrupt).