Free democrats

Free Democratic Party (Germany)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Free Democratic Party (Switzerland)

The Free Democratic Party of Switzerland (German: Freisinnig-Demokratische Partei der Schweiz (FDP), French: Parti radical-démocratique suisse (PRD), Italian: Partito liberale radicale svizzero (PLR)) is a free market liberal party in Switzerland.

The party is a member of Liberal International and the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. A few of the cantonal parties in Central Switzerland are/were named Liberal Party (Liberale Partei), and not affiliated with the Liberal Party of Switzerland. As of March 2005, the party president is Fulvio Pelli. Current members in the Federal Council are Pascal Couchepin and Hans-Rudolf Merz.

In 2003, it held 36 mandates (out of 200) in the Swiss National Council (first chamber of the Swiss parliament); 14 (out of 46) in the second chamber and 2 out of 7 mandates in the Swiss Federal Council (executive body). By 2005, it hold 27,2% of the seats in the Swiss Cantonal governments and 19,7% in the Swiss Cantonal parliaments (index "BADAC", weighted with the population and number of seats).


As a classical liberal party, the FDP generally opposes state intervention in social and economic affairs. Based on its conception of the individual as free, sovereign and self-responsible, it rejects notions of a welfare state and paternalist regulation that became common in Liberalism in other European countries in the late nineteenth century. The FDP professes faith in the free market, free trade, economic deregulation and the rule of law.

As regards specific issues, it is often labeled progressive with regard to social policy, supporting e.g. the legalisation of soft drugs and legal recognition for same-sex couples. In economic policy, it generally favors reduced government spending, tax cuts and a flexible labour market. However, like most other Swiss parties it has no tradition of strong central leadership or ideological unity, and consequently the views of its individual representatives or functionaries vary considerably across the rough center of the political spectrum.

The FDP is often considered to be closely associated with Swiss business interests, in particular banks and pharmaceutical companies. In the eyes of its detractors on the Right, this has caused it to abandon its liberal values at times, e.g. by its support of import protection for medicine or of the expensive 2002 government bailout of the failing national airline, Swissair.


The elements liberal, radical and "free-thinking" (German freisinnig) in the party's name suggest a left-wing party, while in the current political landscape of Switzerland, the FDP is center-right. This is because the name dates back to the conflicts during the period of Restauration between the Catholic conservative cantons and the Protestant liberal cantons that led to the foundation of the Swiss federal state in 1848. The bourgeois Protestant cantons had defeated the Catholic cantons, and from 1848 until 1891, the Federal Council was composed entirely of FDP members. The "Radical Party" of the restoration was actually left-wing compared to the Catholic Conservative Party, and it was only with the rise of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland in the early 20th century that the FDP found itself on the right side of the political center.