Constitution and Democracy

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The Confoederatio Helvetica

The country emerged from a medieval alliance of independent German-speaking cantons; only Fribourg was 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 gave the slogan unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno at the entrance to the Federal Parliament in Bern only in 1848 real political significance. Earlier articles in Swiss Spectator have dealt with this centuries-old process of state-building.

According to the preamble of the Federal Constitution, the Swiss people and the cantons created the Swiss Confederation (Switzerland, the Confederation or Confoederatio Helvetica, CH). By Article 1 of the Federal Constitution, they also form Switzerland as a state under the name of Schweizerische Bundesstaat (Swiss Federal State).

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

The Constitution also recognises the communes, the oldest bodies in Switzerland. They existed long before the cantons and much longer before the Confederation of 1848. So there is a clear difference between the cantons and the Swiss people as founding fathers and the Confederation, the federal government and the communes on the other hand.

The following articles 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)