Swiss politics are generally stable, and the strengths of the chief political parties have varied little over the past several decades. The conduct of national-level politics is generally calm and is marked by mutual esteem and cooperation. On the cantonal and municipal levels, however, the give-and-take of political life is more lively and unrestrained, as well as more partisan. The ruling Federal Council is made up of what the Swiss refer to as the "magic formula" coalition, an informal, but strictly adhered to, arrangement whereby the four largest political parties fill the seven positions on the Federal Council. The three strongest parties are the Social Democratic Party, similar to the Scandinavian Social Democrats, which advocates wider state participation in industry and strong social legislation; the Radical Democratic Party, a progressive middle-class party, which favors increased social welfare, strengthening of national defense, and a democratic federally structured government; and the Christian Democrats (formerly the Christian Social-Conservatives), a clerical federalist party, which opposes centralization of power. The Center Democratic Union (Swiss People's Party) was formed in 1971 by a union of the Farmers, Traders, and Citizens Party, which favored agrarian reform, protective tariffs, and a stronger national defense, and the Democratic Party, a leftist middle-class group. Other parties include the League of Independents, a progressive, middle-class consumers' group; the Communistinclined Workers Party, with some strength in Zürich, Basel, and Geneva; the Liberal Party; and the Independent and Evangelical Party, which is Protestant, federalist, and conservative. In 1985, two small right-wing parties were formed: the National Socialist Party and the Conservative and Liberal Movement.
After the October 1991 elections the Radical Democratic Party held 44 seats, Social Democrats 42 seats, Christian Democrats 37 seats, Swiss People's Party 25 seats, Greens 14 seats, Liberals 10 seats, and minor parties, 28 seats.
In the Council of States, the 46 seats were distributed as follows in 1991: Radical Democratic Party 18 seats, Christian Democrats 16 seats, Social Democrats 4 seats, Liberals 3 seats, Independents 1 seat, and Ticino League 1 seat.
The 1995 elections for the National Council saw the Radical Democratic Party take 45 seats; the Social Democratic Party, 54; the Christian Democratic People's Party, 34; the Swiss People's Party, 30; the Greens, 8; the Liberal Party, 7; the Alliance of Independents Party, 6; the Swiss Democratic Party, 3; the Evangelical People's Party, 3; the Workers' Party, 2; and the Ticino League, 2.
In the Council of States, the 46 seats were distributed as follows: Radical Democrats, 17; Christian Democrats, 17; Swiss People's Party, 4; Social Democrats, 3; Liberals, 3; Independents, 1; Ticino League, 1.
Following the October 1999 elections, the Social Democratic Party took 51 seats; the Swiss People's Party took 44; the Radical Democratic Party, 43; Christian Democrats, 35; Greens, 9; Liberals, 6; Evangelical People's Party, 3; the xenophobic Swiss Democratic Party, 1; the conservative Federal Democratic Union, 1; the Workers' Party, 2; the Ticino League, 2; Independents, 1; the socialist party Solidarities, 1; and the progressive Christian Social Party, 1.
In the Council of States after the 1999 elections, the Radical Democratic Party held 18 seats; the Christian Democrats held 15; the Swiss People's Party had 7; and the Social Democrats held 6.