A Preview Of The Swiss Political Structure

Switzerland is politically diverse as it is geographically; composed of 26 cantons the country has a federal structure with three distinct political levels, which include the confederation, the cantons and the municipalities.

The Federal Level

At the federal level the constitution contains vital information for the functioning of the state, the rules and regulations guarantee the basic rights of the people. The federal constitution has authority in all areas including foreign and security policy, customs and monetary policy along with legislation in other areas of common interest to the Swiss public.

At the federal level there are three authorities namely the Federal Assembly (Federal Parliament) the Federal Council (Executive) and the Federal Courts (Judiciary).

The Swiss Federal Parliament or Federal Assembly has two Chambers, the National Council (House of Representatives) comprised of 200 elected representatives and the Council States (Senate) comprised of 46 elected Senators.

The Cantonal Level

Each canton in Switzerland distinctly has its own constitution, parliament, government and courts. In addition each canton has its a website containing an explanation of the different authorities and access to legislation and case laws.

The canton has the right to exercise its political freedom by means of direct democracy, in some cantons voters get to have their say and make their own decisions by voting at the ballot box.

Each canton has a judiciary organized in two levels, the civil, criminal and administrative courts with a single judge presiding over cases, and the civil, criminal and administrative court of appeals with a panel of three judges.

The Municipal Level

Each separate canton is divided into municipalities or communes, currently there are 2,324 municipalities, the numbers are gradually decreasing as some municipalities’ merge. Around one-fifth of the legislative decisions take place by means of a direct democracy in the municipal level.

One fifth of the municipalities have their own parliament while the other fourth fifths have municipal assemblies that get to take legislative decisions by means of direct democracy.

Furthermore in addition to the work entrusted by the confederation and the canton each municipality has its own authorities for tasks like education, social welfare, energy supply, road building, local planning and taxation.

The laws governing the legislation in Switzerland are divided into two categories the public and private law. The public law oversees the State as well as all the relationships between the State and private individuals.

The Private law on the other hand, governs the relationships between individuals and includes a wide spectrum of oversight; it governs the status of individuals, family law, inheritance law and property law.

For all it has to offer Switzerland remains one of the world’s most democratic nations, its neutrality and federalism along with its direct democracy is part of the identity that shapes the country and helps unite various languages, religions and cultures in a unique and diversified way.