Switzerland is a republic governed under a constitution adopted on May 29, 1874, and amended many times since. The Swiss political system combines direct and indirect democracy with the principles of sovereignty of the people, separation of powers, and proportional representation. In federal elections, all citizens age 18 or older are eligible to vote; women gained suffrage in national elections in 1971 through a referendum. The electorate not only chooses its representatives but also decides important issues by means of referendums, an integral part of Swiss government. Constitutional amendments may be initiated by a petition of 50,000 voters and must be ratified by referendums. Federal legislation may also be made subject to referendums. The United States, likewise, is a democratic government with a ’separation of powers’ safety net. Proportional representation is used in the U.S. to ensure impartial voting by the age 18+ voters.
In Switzerland, executive power is vested in the Bundesrat, or Federal Council, composed of seven members who are elected to four-year terms by a joint session of the bicameral parliament. The council is responsible to the parliament. The legislature elects a president from among the members of the council for a one-year term. The constitution expressly prohibits the reelection of a president to consecutive terms of office. Contrasted with Switzerland, the United States is a Presidency. The American voters directly elect the Executive office holder (President) into office, while the Swiss voters have limited voice in who is President.
The Swiss parliament, called the Federal Assembly, consists of two houses: the St nderat, or Council of States, with 46 members (two for each full canton and one for each half canton) elected for varying periods at the discretion of the canton; and the Nationalrat, or National Council, with 200 members elected for four-year terms under a system of proportional representation.
The Federal Tribunal at Lausanne is composed of 30 judges who are appointed for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly. The court has final jurisdiction in suits between the cantonal and federal governments, corporations and individuals, and between cantons. It has original jurisdiction only in cases involving offenses against the confederation. In addition, each canton has its own autonomous system of justice, including civil and criminal courts and a court of appeals. Capital punishment was abolished in Switzerland in 1942. Excluding the terms, the Swiss Judicial system is very similar to that of the United States. The judiciary is there to interpret the law and are separated into two distinct courts: civil and criminal.
All powers not delegated to the confederation by the Swiss constitution are reserved to the cantons. The forms of cantonal government vary, but each of the 23 cantons, three of which are subdivided into half cantons, has an elected legislative council and an executive council. In the smaller cantons, the council is a Landsgemeinde, a general assembly of voting citizens who decide matters by voice vote. In most cantons, however, the legislative council is a representative body elected by popular vote. Women gained the right to vote in local and cantonal elections in most areas during the 1970s; the last male bastion, Appenzell Inner-Rhoden, changed in 1990. The commune is the basic local unit of government; Switzerland has more than 3,000 communes in all, and they are largely autonomous in many governmental matters. Several communes are grouped into a district, which is headed by a prefect representing the cantonal government. Resembling the U.S., Switzerland has a Federal system with small, but separate local governments that are parallel to the federal government. Both Countries have un-delegated powers that are reserved for the states.
The strongest Swiss political parties are the Radical Democratic Party, standing for strong federal power; the Social Democratic Party, advocating democratic socialism; and the Christian Democratic People’s Party, opposing centralization of power. Other political parties of note are the Swiss People’s Party, the Independent Alliance, the Liberal Party, and the Greens, an environmentalist group. Contrasting The United States’ ‘two party system’, Switzerland has a ‘multiple party system’. Corresponding to the U.S., Switzerland also has many different views within the separate parties.
The Federal Insurance Law of 1911 regulates accident and sickness insurance. Accident insurance is compulsory for most officials and employees. Old-age and survivor’s insurance, which also includes disability benefits, is compulsory and is financed by a payroll tax on both employers and employees. Unemployment insurance became compulsory under a 1976 law. Although these are socialistic traits, there are not enough services to consider it social. Like the U.S., Swiss government is capitalistic, on account of their reluctance to infringe upon private businesses.