Constitution and Democracy

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The Confoederatio Helvetica

The country emerged from a medieval alliance of independent German-speaking cantons; only Fribourg remained bilingual. The (magical) year 1291 and the month of August were accepted by parliament in the 19th century as the founding date of the country.

Between 1291 and 1848, however, there were many (belligerent and divisive) developments that, only in 1848  gave the slogan unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno (at the entrance to the Federal Parliament in Bern) any real political significance.

According to the Preamble of the Federal Constitution, it was the Swiss people and the cantons who created the Swiss Confederation (Switzerland, the Confederation or Confoederatio Helvetica, CH).

This constitution, i.e. the cantons and the Swiss people, defines the Confederation, the federal bodies and their powers, the exercise of powers and their organisation (parliament, government, administration, seven departments, courts and other authorities).

The Constitution also recognises the communes, the oldest bodies in Switzerland. These existed long before the cantons, and much longer before the Confederation of 1848.

The following articles will discuss these bodies of the state as defined in the Federal Constitution. (Source: U. Häfelin, W. Haller, H. Keller, D. Thurnherr, Schweizerisches Bundesstaatsrecht, Zurich, Basel, Geneva 2020).