Sunday, April 10, 2011

Switzerland's Political system

"The people has decided, the people is right."
Swiss politician

Swiss are world champions at voting. Why?

Frequent referendums concerning changes to the constitution as well as laws are the key element of Switzerland's unique and well established tradtion of Direct Democracy. More than 100 years of experience with referendums on national, cantonal and communal level have shown that Switzerland's system of referendums guarantees not only a maximum amount of self-determination to the citizens but also a stability of the political system Switzerland is often envied for.

Switzerland has quite a unique democratic tradition with 27 political systems (one federal and 26 cantonal systems). Four basic facts and features about Switzerland's political organisation:

1.) Switzerland is a Confederation of 26 cantons (canton = member state of the Swiss Confederation)
2.) Switzerland's basic political philosophy can be described as a far reaching and sophisticated form of federalism granting cantons and communes a maximum of political self-determination and restricting the competences of the federal (national) authorities to the absolute minimum that is indispensable to run a modern, highly (post-)industrialised state.
3.) Governments, administrations, parliaments and courts are organized on 3 political levels:

- federal (national)
- cantonal
- communal
4.) Direct Democracy with frequent Referendums on national, cantonal and communal levels.

I will not bore you with more political lingo.

I just got back from voting. Yes, having grown up in Switzerland has it’s advantages and obligations. I consider myself very lucky to live in a country where my voice is heard and respected. As a friend’s father put it many years ago: “We are fortunate to be citizens of a country which seeks our opinon, we must therefore make our contribution to defend this freedom of speech.” I think of him every time I cast my vote with my Swiss Quality Caran d’Ache pen.

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