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Cantonal government: role and composition

As at the federal level, the cantons also maintain a separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The executive at cantonal level is the cantonal government.

Composition of the cantonal government

There are between five and seven members in each cantonal government.

Cantonal departments

Each council member usually runs a department (such as the department of finance, department of health, department of education, etc.), just as at federal level.


The official name given to the cantonal government varies from canton to canton. For example, in German, Bern and other cantons use Regierungsrat, Fribourg and Valais use Staatsrat, while Graubünden uses the simple Regierung. There is no consistent title in French or Italian either. 

The main tasks

The cantonal government’s main task is to manage cantonal affairs. It plans and implements cantonal projects and activities, while coordinating these with the activities of the Confederation and the communes.

It is also responsible for implementing cantonal and federal legislation and runs the cantonal administration by exercising the powers it is assigned by the Federal Constitution.

The cantonal government is also responsible for preparing and managing the canton’s budget.

Regular meetings, collegiate decisions

The members of the cantonal government hold regular scheduled meetings, usually behind closed doors. During these meetings, they reach decisions as a collegial body on the administration of the canton. All members of the cantonal government must defend the position of the collegial body, regardless of their personal opinion.

President of the cantonal government

Cantonal governments usually have a different president each year - the position rotating according to the length of time the government members have been in office. The president does not enjoy any special privileges or status, apart from chairing cantonal government meetings.

The members of the council of your canton

Karte der Schweizer Kantone