Special Visit to the Opening of Parliament

Monday, 27 February 2017 Berne 14:00 - 17:00 (21:00)
Governance PAYG 

Switzerland developed over the centuries from a collection of different alliances to a confederation of states and finally to the federal state we know today. Its national borders and neutrality were established and recognized internationally in 1815. Its political system dates back to the Federal Constitution of 1848. Since then the powers of the federal government, political rights and political diversity have increased significantly. We will attend the eventful first day of the Spring session of Parliament.

Switzerland’s Parliament or legislature consists of two chambers, which although they have equal powers are very different in their own way: the people’s representatives sit in the National Council, the large chamber, and the representatives of the cantons sit in the Council of States, the small chamber.

The 200 members of the National Council represent the roughly 8 million people living in Switzerland. The largest delegation, which is from the canton of Zurich, has 35 members. As the Constitution states that every canton is entitled to at least one seat in the National Council, even Appenzell Innerrhoden, which only has a population of around 16'000, sends a people’s representative to Berne.

The 46 members of the Council of States represent the cantons, whereby each canton has two representatives, although here too there is an exception: As former half-cantons, the cantons of Obwalden, Nidwalden, Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft, Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Appenzell Innerrhoden each have only one representative. Today, the members of the Council of States are elected by the People by secret ballot except in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, where the People’s Assembly (Landsgemeinde) still chooses its representative in the Council of States by a show of hands. (The Association visited the Landsgemeinde Appenzell Innerrhoden in 2016.) In the past, members of the Council of States were not elected by the People but by a cantonal authority. This was the case in the canton of Berne, for example, where until 1979, members were elected by the cantonal parliament.

As always with all of our activities and events, this event is open to all LSE alumnae and alumni.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #SLSEAAparliament


Ständerat Beat Vonlanthen
Our host stands in a long line of LSE graduates, who have found their calling in serving their fellow citizens. Beat studied law in Fribourg (Licenciate and Doctorate) and achieved an LLM from the LSE in 1985. He worked in refugee affairs under the Delegate for Refugee Affairs, Peter Arbenz, before taking charge of the National Further Education Initiative at the Federal Department of Economic Affairs. Thereafter, Beat became Chief of Staff in the Federal Department of Home Affairs and later Deputy Director of the State Secretariat for Science and Research. In 1995, Beat was elected to the Great Council of the Canton of Fribourg and in 2004 as one of the Canton's State Councilors. Since 2015, Beat also represents the Canton of Fribourg in the Federal Council of States. He is a member of the SLSEAA since 2000.


14:00 Visitors' entrance, Bundesterrasse, for security and identification checks
14:30 - 15:30 Watch debate from the gallery of the National Council (Nationalrat)
15:30 - 16:00 Q&A session with Beat Vonlanthen, Member of the Council of States
16:00 - 16:15 Information session in the domed hall on the history and symbolism of the Federal Parliament building
16:15 - 16:30 Watch debate from the gallery of the Council of States (Ständerat)
17:00 - 18:00 Atmospheric stroll through the Old Town
18:00 - 21:00 Luscious alumni dinner at the famed Entrecôte Fédérale across the Federal Parliament


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