Local History

Kanton Basel-Stadt 1501-1901. Photo:/foto: TES.

Canton of Basel-Stadt

The canton of Basel exists since the accession to the Swiss Eidgenossenschaft of 13 cantons in 1501. The city itself is much older and has Celtic and Roman roots. The city was the most important political power of the canton and after the disappearance of the bishop (1525-1529), the political competitor disappeared. In the following centuries, Basel acquired more and more territory, with which it would join the new federation of the 19 cantons in 1803. After the fall of Napoleon, Basel was a member of the new confederation (1815). In 1833, between Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft separated. Both cantons were granted the status of semi-canton in the Ständerat (Council of States).

The canton introduced a new constitution and introduced in 1875: the separation of powers, universal suffrage (for men, the introduction of women’s suffrage followed in 1966), the Volksinitiative (citizens’ initiative at constitutional and legislative level on the basis of 3,000 valid signatures within 18 months) and the referendum (compulsory referendum for all constitutional amendments) and the optional referendum (with 2 000 valid signatures, for new laws and legislative amendments and expenditure decisions of more than 1.5 million francs).

The Grosse Rat (Grand Council) is the legislator, the Regierungsrat (Government Council) is the executive power. Besides, the canton has its judicial organisation. The Grand Council, an institution with a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, is elected every four years according to the proportional system. The seats (200) are allocated to the parties based on the number of votes. However, the governing council is elected according to the majority system, based on the absolute majority.

What distinguishes Basel-Stadt from all other cantons is the responsibility of the Governing Council and the Grand Council for both the canton and the municipality of Basel. The canton is an almost purely urban space, but Riehen and Bettingen are  municipalities. The twelve members of Riehen and Bettingen in the Grand Council have voting rights in municipal affairs of the city of Basel. Riehen and Bettingen are municipalities with their legislative and executive powers. (Source and further information: www.grosserrat.bs.ch).