The historical foundations of the Swiss Confederation serve as the starting point for our exploration of the Swiss governance model. The Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden cantons formed the confederation in 1291 as a defensive alliance. In the midst of the upheaval, these regions came together to form the foundation of what would eventually become the modern-day Switzerland out of the need for a cooperative defensive strategy.
This initial trio of cantons gradually grew as more areas joined the confederation over the years. The process was not easy, and the growing alliance saw its fair share of conflicts and power struggles. But the fundamental idea of staying together in the face of difficulty won out, leading the confederation to expansion and stability.
The founding of the Swiss Federal State in 1848 marked a turning point in the history of the Swiss Confederation. This important restructuring resulted in a change from a loosely connected confederation to a more centralized federal state, inspired by the federal structure of the United States. Federalism, direct democracy, and multiparty consensus politics are among the core values that the revised Federal Constitution established and continue to govern the Swiss political system.
The Federal Assembly is made up of the National Council and the Council of States under the bicameral parliamentary system established by the 1848 constitution, which is modeled after the US Congress.
This development outlined the division of powers between the federal, cantonal, and municipal levels, laying the foundation for Switzerland’s current governance structure.
Since 1848, there have been numerous significant modifications made to the Swiss Confederation.
A crucial step toward gender equality in Swiss politics was taken in 1971 when women were given the right to vote at the federal level. Another important change in the political landscape of Switzerland has been the gradual integration of different political parties into the government, which has led to the current “Magic Formula” power-sharing arrangement.
The journey of the Swiss Confederation from a straightforward alliance of three cantons in the 13th century to the intricate and nuanced federal state of today is a testament to the enduring spirit of cooperation, consensus, and unity. This historical perspective enables us to appreciate the stability and harmony the Swiss governance model continues to foster as well as the foundation upon which it is built.
Author: Pooyan Ghamari, Swiss Economist & Visionary