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Switzerland Federalism I&BR
Posted by: BrEggum (IP Logged)
Date: April 30, 2009 06:34PM

Switzerland's Constitution and Federalism
Switzerland has a long republican tradition, its modern democratic constitution dates back to 1848 only, however and was put into effect after a short civil war in 1847 leaving a conservative minority in a position of losers for decades. The constitution was totally revised in 1874 and amended organically from time to time since. The 1999 total revision did not change anything of importance in substance, it's sole purpose was to establish a modern and more readable structure and language (there have been more substancial changes in small revisions of single items in the last five years than between the "old" and the "totally revised" constitution).
The federal constitution defines Switzerland as a federal state composed of 26 cantons (until 1976: 25 cantons) with far reaching autonomy. For historical reasons, six of the 26 cantons count as half-cantons (created by splitting three originally united cantons in two autonomous halves each), so the total number of 23 cantons given in some other sources is also correct in a way. Apart from voting arithmetics in referendums and in the small chamber of parliament, the half-cantons have exactly the same status as full cantons, however. Switzerland's government, parliament and courts are organized on three levels:

Direct Democracy: Referendum and Initiative
• Frequent referendums on new or changed laws, budgets etc,
- some of them mandatory
- others "facultative" (only if 50,000 citizens demand for it)
• Ordinary citizens may propose changes to the constitution ("initiative"), if they can find a number of supporters (100,000 out of about 3,500,000 voters). Parliament will discuss it, probably propose an alternative and afterwards all citizens may decide in a referendum whether to accept the initiative, the alternate proposal or stay without change
While the federal system can be found in many other countries like the U.S.A., Germany, Austria etc., and separation of powers (government, parliament, courts) are common to all democracies (or at least should be), referendums are rare in most other countries. They do have a stabilizing influence on parliament and government.

Swiss History [tinyurl.com]
Swiss Political System [www.all-about-switzerland.info]

Swiss Initiative and Binding Referendum allows the citizens to make law, rewrite the Constitution which is in a continual state of rewrite, recall officials and implement any Initiative the people decide upon. 100,000 citizen signatures bring the initiative to a Referendum. If finalized in a Referendum of the people, the Initiative is immediately implemented.

Literature and links on Switzerland's Political System:
• www.admin.ch (official website of Switzerland's federal government and administration
• Political Rights in Switzerland (www.admin.ch)
• www.parlament.ch (official website of Switzerland's federal parliament)
• www.swisspolitics.org

Bruce Eggum Wisconsin USA

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  Switzerland Federalism I&BR 1405 BrEggum 04/30/2009 06:34PM

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