Jointly with the National Council, the Federal Council exercises the legislative power at federal level. It can raise objections to legislative decisions of the National Council.

The Composition of the Federal Council

The reasons for the existence of a second chamber differ: Some people hold that it improves the quality of legislation, while others see its function in the representation of certain interests. The idea is that a democratic system needs checks and balances. 

Unlike the National Council, the Federal Council is not elected by direct popular vote. Its members are delegated by the Provincial Diets in proportion to the relative strengths of the parties in the Diets. The number of members delegated by a Federal Province depends on the population figure of that Province. The most populous Province delegates twelve, the smallest at least three members.

When there is a change in the population of a Province, the number of seats in the Federal Council will change accordingly. Seats are reallocated every ten years. The Federal President passes a resolution determining the number of members to be delegated to the Federal Council by each Province. The total number of members is therefore variable.

Currently the Federal Council has 60 members. They are elected by the Provincial Diets for the duration of the legislative period of the Province concerned. The composition of the Federal Council may thus change after every Provincial Diet election.

Accordingly, the Federal Council has no legislative period of its own but has been continuously in session since 1945.