The Swiss Green Party

The Swiss Green Party (GPS) was founded in the 1980s. Ecological issues are at the heart of its political activities. It has also become increasingly involved in social policy issues, and often works together with other left-wing parties and groups.

The Swiss Green Party (GPS) has its origins in the environmental movement of the 1970s. In the 1980s, the green movement was quite heterogeneous. On one side, the Federation of Green Parties in Switzerland, which called itself the Swiss Green Party after 1986, engaged in a politics of moderation. On the other side stood left-wing alternative Green Alliance Switzerland (GBS). While the Federation of Green Parties focused mainly on environmental protection issues, the alternative Green parties embraced the concerns and issues of the new social movements. In the 1987 elections, the GPS received around 5% of the votes, winning nine seats in the National Council. The alternative Greens, on the other hand, won only one seat, leading a number of their members to join the GPS.  The GBS thereupon disbanded, and by 1993, the GPS had merged with various other small left-wing parties.

During the 1990s, the GPS shifted from being a protest party motivated by ecological concerns to become a left-wing party engaged in the politics of reform. Social policy played a central role in this reorientation. In doing so, the GPS did take its own positions, submitting two popular initiatives in 1996, for example, as part of the discussion of 10th revision of the AHV. The first called for a more flexible retirement age for women and men over 62, the second wanted to provide more financial security for the AHV by means of an energy tax. The GPS thus tried to link ecological to socio-political concerns, as well as to introduce a new funding framework for social welfare institutions by making taxation more ecologically-oriented.  While the voters rejected both initiatives, the GPS did achieve a respectable showing in at least one respect, as 46% of the voters favored a more flexible retirement age. With the advent of new poverty, the GPS was one of the first political parties to call for a guaranteed minimum subsistence level that could replace social benefits. The Greens also advocatedecological growth  sustainable growth, for example by promoting green technologies. This was accompanied by a plea to reduce the number of weekly working hours as well as calling for a redistribution of existing gainful employment. The left-wing orientation the GPS took was not without controversy within the Green movement, and eventually led to a split within the party and the subsequent founding of the Green Liberal Party (GLP) in 2003.  The GLP has since then pursued a more centrist or classically liberal course, particularly in the positions it has taken vis-à-vis the welfare state.

In arguing for expanded welfare state benefits, the GPS has often joined forces with the Social Democratic Party (SP), the trade unions, and certain civil society groups. Together with the SP and trade unions, the GPS successfully fought the 11th AHV reform (2004), launched an initiative to introduce public health insurance (2014), and supported the trade union initiative AHVplus (2016). In 2002, civil society groups had launched an initiative in favor of a unified health insurance scheme which the GPS supported, though it was ultimately unsuccessful, and in 2016, the GPS was the only party to favor the popular initiative to provide an unconditional basic income. In 2018, the GPS also actively supported an initiative launched by a few individuals protesting the legal basis for monitoring insured persons, though that too was an unsuccessful plebiscite. Since the turn of the millennium, the Greens have become increasingly significant, achieving 9.6% of the vote in 2007.  In 2019, the Greens were able to massively increase their representation in the National Council and the Council of States, and at 13.2% became the fourth largest party in the country.

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Baer, Matthias; Seitz, Werner (Hg.): Die Grünen in der Schweiz. Ihre Politik. Ihre Geschichte. Ihre Basis, Zürich 2008; Grüne Partei Schweiz: Grüne Wirtschaftspolitik. Schwerpunkte grüner Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik 1994/95, Bern 1994; HLS: Grüne Parteien