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First Among Equals

President of the Swiss Confederation

Unlike in other countries, in Switzerland, no one person is ever head of state. The president of the Confederation is "primus inter pares" – first among equalsfor one year.

The President of the Swiss Confederation is elected for one year of office by the United Federal Assembly.


H.E. Guy Parmelin was elected President of the Swiss Confederation for 2021 on 9 December 2020. The presidential year 2021 is his first term as President of Switzerland.

The content to be read here is part of the Official Website of the Swiss government with official information about the Federal Council and the Federal Presidency.

More about the President of Switzerland can be read on >>


The Swiss Federal Presidency has a rich and varied history. During the first difficult decades of the federal state, the office was awarded to federal councillors with particularly strong leadership skills. The members of the cantonal governments who drew up the Swiss Constitution were pragmatic thinkers and prepared to make compromises, according to the Swiss Historical Dictionary. They wanted to avoid the concentration of too much power in too few hands and certainly did not want just one person to hold too many executive powers. The federal presidency was shaped accordingly and the term of office limited to one year.

The current system of rotation, whereby the longest-standing member of the government becomes vice president of the Federal Council and then a year later president of the Swiss Confederation. Prior to this, the Federal Assembly elected the most admired federal councillors as president.

Federal Council

The Federal Council is the seven-member executive council that constitutes the federal government of the Swiss Confederation and serves as the collective head of state and government of Switzerland. It meets in the west wing of the Bundeshaus in Bern.

While the entire council is responsible for leading the federal administration of Switzerland, each Councillor heads one of the seven federal executive departments. Guy Parmelin heads the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), Ignazio Cassis heads the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Alain Berset heads the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA), Karin Keller-Sutter heads the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), Viola Amherd heads the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS), Ueli Maurer heads the Federal Department of Finance (FDF) and Simonetta Sommaruga heads the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC).


The position of President of the Swiss Confederation rotates among the seven councillors on a yearly basis, with one year's Vice President of the Federal Council becoming the next year's Confederation President. Guy Parmelin has been the incumbent officeholder since 1 January 2021. 


Federal Councillor H.E. Guy Parmelin and elected President of the Swiss Confederation was born in Bursins (Vaud) on 9 November 1959. He holds a federal baccalaureate specialising in Latin and English. Following a farming apprenticeship, he obtained a diploma from the agricultural college at Marcelin in 1979. In 1985, he obtained a Federal PET Diploma in agriculture and winegrowing.


Parmelin entered into politics in 1993 as president of Bursins communal council. Between 1994 and 2003, he was a member of the Vaud cantonal parliament. Between 2000 and 2004, he was president of the Vaud cantonal branch of the SVP. He was elected to the National Council in 2003.

As a master winegrower, he ran a farm and vineyard. Parmelin was vice president of the board of the Federation of Swiss Agricultural Cooperatives (FENACO) and a board member of the "Etablissement d'assurance contre l'incendie et les éléments naturels" (ECA) of the canton of Vaud.

On 09 December 2015, the Federal Assembly elected Parmelin to the Federal Council. He took over as head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) on 1 January 2016. Since January 2019 he has been head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER).


H.E. Guy Parmelin, Federal President, 9 December 2020 :

"For a country that is rich with such diversity, ensuring cohesion is a daily challenge, all the more so in the current situation. From the shores of Lake Geneva to the forests of Ticino, from the city of Zurich to my little village of Bursins, whether in tractors or regional trains, moccasins or trainers, in four languages, not to mention all the others, with or without a Swiss passport, a thousand differences cement us together when they could divide us. This is not due to providence: it is because we show an interest in our neighbours and a willingness to enter into dialogue with them.

Cohesion is Switzerland's real strength, added to our wonderful ability to overcome differences to achieve a common goal: working together for the future and progress of the country, for the good of each and every one of us.”

Those were the words of the President of the Swiss Confederation for 2021 as he addressed the Federal Assembly a few minutes after his election. The motto of the newly elected president is clear: We are stronger together. In these particularly turbulent times, cohesion is essential, he said in his acceptance speech. We all face the same challenges.

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