Switzerland has 7 Presidents as Head of State. Yes. Switzerland doesn’t have a President or Prime Minister acting as a Head of State nor a Head of Government like in USA, UK, Nigeria, or Zimbabwe.
The country is managed by a seven-members Council which is considered as a collective Head of State.
One member of the council is considered the President of the Confederation (whom you can ﬁguratively call President of Switzerland) but he is just a «primus inter pares», which means ”ﬁrst among equals” 7 members of the Federal Council.
He acts in that role for 1 year, and the duty of presidency rotates among the members in order of seniority, then the previous year’s Vice President becomes President.
The President of the Confederation is not considered the head of State, rather the entire Federal Council is considered a collective Head of State. The President main role is to assume special representational duties. He has no powers above the other Councilors and continues to head his or her department.
”Because the Swiss have no single Head of State, the country also carries out no state visits. When traveling abroad, the President does so only as an ordinary Minister of a government Department.
Visiting heads of state are received by the seven members of the Federal Council together, rather than by the President of the Confederation. Treaties are signed on behalf of the full Council, with all Federal Council members signing le5ers of credence and other documents of the kind.” – Wikipedia
Why is this a good model of governance for Africa?
Switzerland is a multicultural country with 4 diﬀerent ethnics groups: Germanic, French, Italian, and Rhaeto- Romansh (65 % of the population is German; 18 % French; 10 % Italian; 1 % was Romansh; and 6 % comprises of various other groups).
Tough Germans made 2/3 of the population, and that ethnic group could easily win all democratic elections based on the rule of the majority, the country adopted a federal model that in fact gives enough power to each ethnic group to manage their local aﬀairs, speak and administrate in their language, and at the top executive level the collective nature of the federal council works well to reinforce the sense of community of destiny.
Here are the main advantages of the Swiss model:
- It’s integrative and minimize ethnic conﬂicts in the context a multi-ethnic country
- Seven heads of state, all equal in opinion and power, make it diﬃcult to take impulsive decision, and minimize the risk of dictatorship
- It also minimizes corruption of leadership in the sense that any top level decision could not be taken without sound review by the Seven members of the council
- Additionally, as all seven members have to sign top level decisions to be valid, foreign pressure on one or two members of the council will not be enough to move a decision ahead.
- Finally, leadership based on showmanship and cult of personality is severely limited, and the leaders are more focused on delivering results in their department.
In The Prince, Machiavelli said, the weakest form of government for any nation is dictatorship or one-powerful-man at top, because it’s easy to conquer such nations. Once you succeed to cut the head, the whole falls into panic and concedes defeat. In the other hand, the most resilient nations are those with multiple, strong, and independence local princes. Even after the central government of such nations would fall, any conqueror would have to ba5le all individual princes to win over the country.
In 1976, in China, after Mao died, the Chinese Communist Party vowed never to let a single person, whatever his position or charisma, to have so much power to lead to the horriﬁc deeds of the Chinese cultural revolution.
Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s successor, stripped himself of all the powers he has got as president, and transferred them to what was called the Eight Elders, which ultimately would accomplish the most transformational endeavor in human history which lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty in China, and reached a level of development Europe succeeded to accomplish only over 400 years.
For Chinese, from then state’s aﬀairs should not be a matter of opinion, intuition, impulse, emotion, religion, personal preferences or lineage, but based on the scientific approach of ”seek truth from facts” in political and economic aﬀairs.