60+ Impressive Swiss Government Facts You Should Know | Kidadl


60+ Impressive Swiss Government Facts You Should Know

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Did you know that the Swiss government is one of the oldest in the world?

Switzerland is a federal republic and the world's only direct democracy. Its government was formed in 1291 and has been functioning more or less smoothly ever since.

Switzerland has a population of approximately 8 million people. As a country with 26 cantons and more than 2,000 communities, the direct democracy approach of Switzerland's political system plays a huge role in maintaining harmony amongst the linguistically and culturally diverse masses. The fundamental operating principle of this country is the consensus.

The federal government system, combined with direct democracy, ensures national unity in the Swiss population. It also makes it easier to delegate political and legislative powers among the Confederate, cantons, and communes. However, this form of governing has its disadvantages and challenges too. Read on to find out more!

The Type Of Government That Switzerland Has

Switzerland has a direct democracy, which means that citizens have a say in all of the administrative decisions made in the country. Read on to understand how Switzerland's government functions as a direct democracy.

  • Before the firm establishment of the federal constitution in 1874, the Swiss government placed a lot of importance on cantonal boundaries. After revising the constitution, the country's main axis shifted to federal laws.
  • Today, the Swiss government is a federal system that runs smoothly due to a balanced party atmosphere and direct democracy.
  • Switzerland is a federal state that is divided into 26 cantons. Each canton has its own government and parliament.
  • The Federal Council is the main governing body of the Swiss government and consists of seven members who are elected by the people.
  • Being a direct democracy is an advantage as it allows people more power and role in decision-making and Swiss politics.
  • However, this approach is also cumbersome as it slows down the administrative process and makes decision-making harder for the government.
  • In a lot of instances, common citizens are not equipped with the political capacity to make choices in the best interest of the country. This results in politically inaccurate decisions that don't really benefit people or look good at the international level.
  • For example, in November 2009 the Swiss government had to enforce a law that banned the construction of minarets in the country, even though the officials advised citizens to vote against the proposal.
  • This happened because the popular initiative to ban minarets was voted affirmatively by 58% of voters, although it was a polarizing move.
  • In 2010, a majority of 53% voted for the popular initiative to deport foreign criminals being held in Switzerland. Again, the government had to impose the law even though it was a diplomatic disadvantage.

Key Features Of The Swiss Government

As a federal republic that has evolved over the centuries, the Swiss government has a unique outlook on the modern world. Below are the key features that define the functioning of this political system:

  • In a direct democracy like Switzerland, all decisions are made via three types of referendum: mandatory, popular initiative, and optional referendum.
  • A mandatory referendum is required whenever the parliament wants to make changes in the constitution.
  • In Switzerland, a double majority is required to pass an amendment to the constitution. This means that both the upper (cantons) and lower (people) houses must vote in favor of the proposal.
  • Popular initiatives are launched by citizens to propose changes to the constitution of Switzerland.
  • Any Swiss citizen who is of age and has the right to vote is eligible to initiate a popular initiative.
  • Popular initiatives are launched by groups of citizens called the initiative committee. The initiative committee consists of a minimum of seven Swiss citizens.
  • For a popular initiative to be presented for a vote, the initiative committee needs to accrue 100,000 signatures supporting the proposal. This has to be done within 18 months of launching the initiative.
  • If a proposal is passed by the majority, a new law or amendment is made to existing legislation to bring the new constitutional changes into effect.
  • An optional referendum is the common citizen's right to oppose an amendment or law passed by the parliament.
  • In order to launch this type of referendum, citizens must collect 50,000 valid signatures in 100 days. If this condition is met, the law has to be voted on by the public.
  • If the referendum results in a majority of people voting yes, the new law or amendment is passed by parliament. If the public votes against the proposal, the existing law remains intact and the bill has to be rejected.
  • The optional referendum was introduced in 1874. To date, 102 of 180 optional referendums held have been successful.
  • The parliament works to adapt laws and amendments favored by the public in a way that complies with international accords, effectively balancing the scales of democracy and politics.
Key features and hierarchy of Switzerland's government.

Hierarchy Of The Swiss Government

The hierarchy of the Swiss government is made up of different levels of power. Read on to understand the different parts of the government and how they function.

  • The Swiss government is organized in a hierarchy where the Swiss president is the ceremonial head of state, and then there are different levels of government underneath him or her.
  • Switzerland's government has three tiers: the federal government, the cantonal governments, and the communal or municipal governments.
  • The federal government is the national level government that oversees all affairs and has an upwards delegation relationship with the lower levels of government.
  • External and internal security, foreign policy and customs, the monetary system, the military, transportation affairs, forestry, water conservation, and social insurance programs are the major areas governed by the federal government.
  • The cantonal governments are the administrative bodies of the different cantons. They have the autonomy to make rules specific to a canton.
  • Every cantonal level government is headed by five to seven members who oversee different departments.
  • The primary task of a cantonal government is to oversee administration and activities in a canton, and coordinate canton level affairs with the Federal and communal governments.
  • A canton's budget is prepared by the respective cantonal government.
  • All important decisions of a canton are made by a collegiate body. All members of a cantonal government are required to abide by these decisions irrespective of personal opinion.
  • Communal governments are the local or municipal governments that oversee towns and small villages within cantons.
  • The Swiss government has different parts handling its executive, legislative, and judiciary functions at all levels. The Federal Council, Federal Assembly, and Federal Supreme Court are the federal or national level authorities of Switzerland.
  • The Federal Council handles the executive branch of the government, the Federal Assembly is the government's legislative branch and the judiciary is overseen by the Federal Supreme Court.
  • The highest-ranking part of the government is the Federal Council, which is made up of seven ministers.
  • The Federal Council ministers, or Federal Councilors, are in charge of different areas of the government, such as defense or finance.
  • The seven federal councilors are elected by the Federal Assembly. These elections are held every four years and the chosen councilors hail from the major political parties of Switzerland.
  • The Federal councilors rotate on an annual basis to take on the role of Swiss president.
  • Although one of the Federal councilors assumes the position of president, the role is ceremonial and simply a figurehead to represent the country in international organizations and important addresses.
  • In reality, the responsibilities and duties of a head of state are shared equally by all seven federal councilors.
  • The second in command is the Federal Assembly. The Federal Assembly is Switzerland's parliament and oversees federal legislative affairs.
  • The Federal assembly consists of two houses: the National Council and the Council of States.
  • The National Council consists of representatives from the citizens and is the lower house of parliament.
  • The Council of States represents the 26 cantons and is the upper house of parliament.
  • The National Council has 200 members. The number of representatives from each canton depends on the canton's population, however one seat is guaranteed to all cantons irrespective of population size.
  • The Council of States has 26 members. As the National Council, these leaders are also chosen through a general election.
  • However, the Council of States has a fixed composition of two seats per canton, which ensures equal political representation of less populated cantons.
  • Appenzell-Ausserrhoden, Appenzell-Innerrhoden, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land are the six half-cantons of Swiss Confederation. This means they are represented by one individual instead of two at the Council of States.
  • The Federal Supreme Court presides over appeals from cantonal courts and rulings of the federal administration.
  • Judges of the Supreme Court are elected by the National Assembly. They have a practicing term of six years.
  • The Supreme Court has no power over any legislative motions presented by the federal parliament, such as an amendment to the constitution. This role is given to the people.

Facts About The Swiss Government

The country's government is just as much of national identity as its landscapes, money, and watches! Read on to discover more interesting facts about the nation that was built on the principles of neutrality, federalism, and direct democracy.

  • The federal constitution of Switzerland dates back to 1848 and was modeled after the American constitution. It was majorly revised in 1874.
  • In 2000, the old constitution was thoroughly reshaped to become more coherent, as well as to incorporate all the amendments passed up until then in a neat fashion.
  • The new constitution did not really have a significant impact on the federal state, however.
  • Switzerland's constitution is the basis for its consociational style democracy, which attempts to maintain stability by considering all parties.
  • Although the motive behind direct democracy is to include all people, including minorities in the political process, women were not given the right to vote until  1971!
  • The seven federal councilors meet every week at the Federal Palace in Bern to hold relevant discussions.
  • The National Assembly houses meet separately four times a year for sessions that last three weeks each.
  • Both houses meet together once a year, around December. This is known as the United Federal Assembly.
  • The House of Cantons is where the 26 representatives of the cantons hold meetings to discuss relevant matters they wish to bring up at the federal level.
  • Popular initiatives were first introduced as an instrument of direct democracy in Switzerland in 1891.
  • Although 200 popular initiatives have been launched since then, only 22 passed the referendum stage with a majority vote.
  • During the period of 1959-2003, the Federal Council was composed of a proportionate number of members from the four major Swiss political parties.
  • This coalition consisted of the Free Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party, Christian Democrats, and the Swiss People's Party.
  • The seats of the Federal Council were divided between the four parties in a ratio of 2:2:2:1, with the Swiss People's Party having one seat. This was known as the Swiss' 'magic formula'!
  • By 2003, this system had to be repealed because other political parties found it unfair and the Swiss People's Party had become the largest of the four by then.
  • Although Swiss citizenship comes with a lot of political autonomy, the turnout during parliamentary elections is always on the lower side. The last time the country saw upwards of 50% voter turnout was in 1975.
  • There is higher voter participation in the referendums compared to the parliamentary elections.
  • Swiss citizens are required to purchase health insurance from private firms. This came to be as a result of the decentralized nature of the country's healthcare system.

<p>An accomplished Business Management student from Jamia Milia Islamia University with a talent for writing, creative problem-solving, and a drive for personal development, Shameena has gained experience in ghostwriting and conversational tutoring. Her passion for public speaking and engaging learning experiences makes her a versatile and valuable addition to any team.</p>

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