How the political system in Switzerland works, which parties there are in Switzerland or which participation rights people with a migration background have - you will get answers to these and many other questions in the subtopic Swiss Politics.


01. How did the Swiss state come into being?

Are you interested in the history of Switzerland? Here you will find a brief overview of Swiss history.

You will also find here the Swiss Federal Constitution in various languages.

02. What characterizes the Swiss political system?

Switzerland is based on a federal constitution (basic law of the state) and is thus a Rule of law. She is a direct democracy, citizens can therefore have a strong say in public affairs.

 Switzerland is often even referred to as a model democracy. There are four main reasons for this:

  • The individual freedoms of every person are guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
  • Minorities are thanks to a federalist state structure protected.
  • The Voice of the people is in Switzerland widely developed. Therefore, several times a year Referendums are held, in which citizens can participate in decision-making on important issues.
  • By means of Popular initiative citizens can demand an amendment to the Federal Constitution. And with a Referendum it is possible to submit parliamentary resolutions to the people for a final decision after the fact.

Switzerland is also federalist, because it is made up of cantons that enjoy extensive autonomy. Today Switzerland counts 26 cantonsfrom which six Half-Cantons are.

More information:
Information on the Swiss political system

03. How is the Swiss political system structured?

Switzerland's democracy is based on the Swiss Federal Constitution and knows the Separation of powers. This means that state power is distributed among various state organs. At the national level, this looks as follows:

The Legislative (legislative power) is the national parliament. It is also called the Federal Assembly and consists of two chambers: the National Council and the Council of States. The National Council has 200 members and represents the people. The Council of States with 46 members represents the 26 cantons in parliament.

The Executive (executive power) is the Federal Council (National Government). It has seven members, who preside over the Federal Administration. One person from the Federal Council additionally assumes the function of the President of the Federal Council for one year at a time.

The Judiciary (judicial power) consists, at the national level, of the Federal Court, the Federal Criminal Court and the Federal Administrative Court.

Analogous to the Confederation (the state as a whole), the 26 cantons (constituent states) in Switzerland also recognize the separation of powers; however, their structure may vary: There are cantonal parliaments (not in all cantons), cantonal governments and cantonal courts.

The Swiss political system

04. What does federalism mean?

In Switzerland, the Federalism and the Subsidiarity to the basic principles of state policy. In simplified terms, this means first of all that the Confederation, the 26 cantons and the approximately 2,600 municipalities in Switzerland divide up public tasks among themselves, with the cantons being as independent as possible.

Federalism: The cantons in Switzerland have a high degree of autonomy. They have their own constitutions, parliaments (not in all cantons), governments, courts and police. One consequence of this is that there are a large number of different legal norms. Agreements among the cantons ensure that the Swiss economic area nevertheless functions well.

Thanks to this federal system, the interests of small groups and minorities are better protected. One disadvantage, however, is that the interaction between the federal government, cantons and municipalities can sometimes be very complex and time-consuming.

Subsidiarity: The important basic idea here is that the smaller structures (municipalities and cantons) are initially responsible for solving tasks. If the municipality cannot handle a task, the canton takes over responsibility. And for those tasks that even the canton alone cannot fulfill, the responsibility passes to the federal government. Examples of this are foreign policy, labor law, civil and criminal law, vocational training or national infrastructure.

05. What parties are there in Switzerland?

Switzerland is a Multi-party state. The four largest parties in the country are represented in the Federal Council (national government) (alphabetical order):

  • The center
  • Free Democratic Party. The Liberals (FDP)
  • Swiss People's Party (SVP)
  • Social Democratic Party (SP)

There are quite a few other parties in the country. A list of all registered parties in Switzerland can be found here here. Because no party has an absolute majority, Swiss politics is always about that, compromises acceptable to the majority to find.

06. What are the most important civil rights?

Swiss citizens have a whole range of options for actively shaping politics in the country. To do this, they must at least 18 years old be a Swiss citizen and have Swiss citizenship.

The most important civil rights are:

  • The Voting and election rights: Several times a year, voters decide in referendums at the local, cantonal and federal levels.
  • The Right of initiative and referendum: Citizens can demand amendments to the Federal Constitution by means of an initiative. With a referendum, they can demand that parliamentary resolutions be submitted to the people for a final vote. Both the initiative and the referendum must meet certain requirements, such as a certain number of signatures, in order to be valid.
  • The right of petition: This right allows everyone (including migrants) to make suggestions, requests or complaints in writing to the authorities.

07. What political participation rights do foreigners have?

Most instruments of political participation in Switzerland require citizenship; they are therefore reserved for Swiss citizens. However, some cantons have already introduced the Voting and election rights for persons with a migration background introduced at the municipal or cantonal level.
However, migrants have the possibility of political participation through petition in all cantons.

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