Constitutional Background

In 1999, the 1874 Constitution has been replaced by the New Constitution (in force since 1 Jan 2000) integrating about 150 minor revisions into a new, consolidated text without radically changing the structure of the Swiss Federation.

Switzerland has 26 states, called 'cantons' ('Kantone') -- six of them half-cantons: Basel Stadt, Basel Landschaft, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Unterwalden nid dem Wald, Unterwalden ob dem Wald. Within the Senate ('Ständerat') each canton has two seats (half-cantons have one seat). With the exception of the late-coming secessionist Jura, the cantonal structure has a long tradition, dating back to the period between 1798 and 1815.

History and News

  • 29 Nov 2009: Minaret prohibition initiative succeeds in referendum.
  • 18 April 1999: Federal Constitution adopted (Referendum with 59% to 41%; in force: 1 Jan 2000).
  • 18 Dec 1998: Parliament adopts draft of the new constitution.
  • 1996: Publication of the draft of a new Constitution.
  • 6 Dec 1992: Referendum about membership in the European Economic Space (EES) fails. Government puts EU application on hold.
  • 1972: Free Trade Agreement with the EC (now: EU).
  • 29 May 1874: Complete revision of the Federal Constitution ('Totalrevision') extends direct democracy on the federal level.
  • 12 Sep 1848: Federal Constitution adopted by the constitutional convention ('Tagsatzung') and a majority of 15 1/2 of 22 cantons (in force: 16 Nov 1848).  The constitution combines elements of the cantonal constitutions with the model of the US.  Its adoption was preceded by an unsuccessful secessionist attempt of seven catholic cantons ('Sonderbund').
  • 1815: Restoration of former Swiss order after final defeat of France; Valais, Neuchâtel and Genève join the Swiss Federation; Switzerland extends to its new boundaries.
  • 1812: The Swiss Federation declares its neutrality.
  • 1803: Mediation Act ('Mediationsakte') decentralizes Switzerland again; Sankt Gallen, Graubünden, Thurgau, Ticino, Aargau and Vaud join the Swiss Federation.
  • 1789: Centralized 'Helvetik' (Swiss Republic) established by Napoleon during french occupation.
  • 1648: Declaration of Independence; Switzerland becomes an independant Nation.
  • 1513: Appenzell (13) joins the Swiss Federation.
  • 1501: Basel (11) and Schaffhausen (12) join the Swiss Federation.
  • 1481: Fribourg (9) and Solothurn (10) join the Swiss Federation.
  • 1460: First swiss university is founded in Basel.
  • 1353: Bern (8) joins the Swiss Federation, thereby completing what is later known as the "eight old locations" ('acht alten Orte').
  • 1352: Glarus (6) and Zug (7) join the Swiss Federation.
  • 1351: Zürich (5) joins the Swiss Federation.
  • 1332: Luzern (4) joins the Swiss Federation.
  • 1 Aug 1291: Uri (1), Schwyz (2) and Unterwalden (3) unite.

For methodology see: Comparing Constitutions and International Constitutional Law.
© 1994 - 27.6.2020 / For corrections please contact A. Tschentscher.