The Swiss Parliament has its seat in the Federal Palace in Bern. It consists of two chambers: the National Council with 200 members and the Council of States with 46 members.
Members of parliament are elected by the people and remain in office for four years. They can run again and be re-elected for new terms.
The two chambers of Parliament have the same powers and decide on the same items of business. Their main tasks are to:
discuss and adopt federal acts, valid throughout the country. This is why parliament is called the ‹legislative power›.
elect federal authorities: including the seven members of the Federal Council, the President of the Confederation, the judges of the Federal Supreme Court and the Federal Chancellor.
define the finances available to the federal government to fulfil its tasks.
monitor the activities of the Federal Council, the Federal Administration, the Federal Supreme Court and other bodies that perform federal tasks, e.g. the Post Office or the SBB.
The National Council and the Council of States take most decisions separately. Only for some decisions, e.g. elections, do the parliamentarians sit and decide all together in united chambers (also called the United Federal Assembly).
Parliament's decisions are only final if the National Council and the Council of States reach the same conclusion. Otherwise, the two chambers must follow the ‹resolution of differences procedure› in an attempt to reach an agreement.
The members of the two chambers meet regularly during parliamentary sessions, which take place four times a year. Each session lasts three weeks. In addition, special sessions, lasting several days, may also be held.
Members of parliament also carry out a significant part of their work outside session periods in parliamentary committees. Committees are composed of a small number of parliamentarians from different political groups. They prepare proposals that will then be submitted to the two chambers during the sessions.
The debates of the Federal Assembly are public. You can watch the debates on streaming in person. If you wish to attend the sessions in person or simply visit the Federal Palace, you must book online. Visits are free of charge.
The website of the Swiss Parliament provides more information on its activities, its organisation and the objects dealt with by the two chambers.
Videos and information about the Swiss Parliament are also available at Juniorparl (website available in German, French and Italian) provides videos and information about the Swiss Parliament.
The ch.ch website provides more information about the number of seats in Parliament per canton.