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Switzerland Government
 
 
 

General

The Federal Constitution adopted in 1848, is the legal foundation of the modern Federal State. A new Constitution was adopted in 1999, but did not introduce notable changes to the federal structure. It outlines basic and political rights of individuals and citizen participation in public affairs, and divides the powers between the Confederation and the cantons and defines federal jurisdictions and authorities.

There are three main governing bodies on the federal level: the bicameral parliament (legislative), the Federal Council (executive) and the Federal Court (judicial).

The Swiss Parliament consists of two houses: the Council of States which has 46 representatives (two from each canton and one from each half-canton) who are elected under a system determined by each canton, and the National Council, which consists of 200 members who are elected under a system of proportional representation, depending on the population of each canton. Members of both houses serve for 4 years. When both houses are in joint session, they are known collectively as the Federal Assembly. Through referendums, citizens may challenge any law passed by parliament and through initiatives, introduce amendments to the federal constitution, making Switzerland a direct democracy.

The top executive body and collective Head of State is the Federal Council, a collegial body of seven members, elected for a four-year mandate by the Federal Assembly that is also its supervising authority. The President of the Confederation is elected among the seven members, traditionally in rotation, for a one-year term, in order to chair the government and assume representative functions, yet also keeps his function in the cabinet and has no additional powers.

The function of the Federal Supreme Court is to hear appeals of cantonal courts or the administrative rulings of the federal administration. The judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for six-year terms.

Overview

Country name
conventional long form: Swiss Confederation
conventional short form: Switzerland
local long form: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German); Confederation Suisse (French); Confederazione Svizzera (Italian); Confederaziun Svizra (Romansh)
local short form: Schweiz (German); Suisse (French); Svizzera (Italian); Svizra (Romansh)

Government type
formally a confederation but similar in structure to a federal republic

Capital
name: Bern
geographic coordinates: 46 57 N, 7 26 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October


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