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    Friday, 3 February 2017

    Introduction of Constitution of Switzerland

    The Country and the Inhabitants
    Switzerland is a small country of Central Europe having a territory of 41285 square KM with a population of 7,288,010 according to the census of 2000. Despite its limited population, it is inhabited by a multi-racial people; hence the Swiss society lacks cultural, ethnic and linguistic affinity. A large majority belongs to German, Italian and French people, while there are three official languages in addition to numerous dialectics and other regional languages. Christianity is the religion of the over whelming majority in which Protestants command majority. Switzerland is a welfare state and it has comparatively maximum per capita income throughout the world according to a survey Report published in 1991.

    The presence of national integration is a strange phenomenon in a people who belong to diverse ethnic groups; All Swiss people adhere to the integrative values and subordinate their ethnic differences to the common good and national solidarity. An important feature of their political culture is the development of an appreciable level of political awareness, to the extent that glimpses of direct democracy are visible in the working of their political system in the 21st century. Many other countries have also opted certain features and political devices of Swiss System, i.e., different forms of direct legislation have been introduced in some American states on Swiss pattern.

    The political system of Switzerland has its imperative for the students of Political Science, for its peculiar features. The working of Plural or Collegial executive is almost unique among the contemporary political systems. It combines the characteristics and advantages of both, Presidential and Parliamentary forms of government, as the stability of the former has been integrated with the accountability of the latter. The .role of Switzerland in international politics has also been peculiar as it preserved neutrality to an extent that this policy could not be affected even in the turmoil period of two Great Wars. It is due to its policy of non-alignment and complete neutrality that Switzerland has always been a center of political and diplomatic activities of global importance. The country is not% a member of United Nations though it has its representation in its various agencies, especially in IMF and the World Bank. It maintains its permanent observers at United Nations).

    Growth of the Constitution
    In the early period of its history, Switzerland comprised an aggregation of smaller political units inhabited by the people belonging to different ethnic groups. Despite ethnic differences, the Swiss society presented a national outlook. By the end of 13th century, they began to be politically organized in order to protect their rights. Political history of this country can be divided into five phases, as detailed below:-

    1.            Ancient Confederation    1291 to 1798
    2.            Helvetic Republic              1798 to 1803
    3.            Napoleon Period              1803 to 1815
    4.            Confederation    1815 to 1848
    5.            Present Federation           1848

    1. Ancient Confederation
    In 1291, three Cantons formed a Union for the promotion of collective welfare and realization of common interests. Accordingly, it was resolved that they would settle their internal disputes through mutual cooperation and help each in case of external aggression. The doors were kept open for admitting new Cantons into the Union. Hence almost 13 cantons had become its members by 1513. But the experiment of Confederation did not prove successful, as the central government lacked effective control over the component units. The presence of a strong central government was regarded indispensable for the promotion of collective well being and prosperity.

    2. Helvetic Republic
    Switzerland became the target of French military aggression in 1798, and the new alien masters replaced the traditional Swiss system with a distinct one. All the long established institutions had to undergo complete structural changes. The whole territory was divided into 22 regions, in which each unit was given autonomous status. A representative Assembly was formed in each political unit and bicameral legislature was established in the central set-up. As the system thus introduced was not in line with the old traditions: the people got frustrated and stood up against foreign rule to topple it.

    3. Napoleon Period

    Under the impact of wide-spread demonstrations and protest movements, Napoleon had to adopt conciliatory attitude and a new law known as "Conciliatory Law", was enforced. Under the new arrangements, six more Cantons were added to the original 13 Cantons of the Union, making a total of 19 Cantons. Separate Constitutions were framed for the federal government as well as for each federating unit and sufficient autonomy was secured to the latter. This system continued to exist till 1815 when further changes took place after the defeat of Napoleon.

    4. Confederation
    After the fall of Napoleon's regime, there occurred drastic changes on the political map of Europe. Consequently Switzerland also got independence. A new constitution was adopted which could suit to the genesis of a progressive society. Under the new arrangements, three more cantons were added to the Union making the total 22. All the federating units got equal political status and enjoyed full autonomy, at least in their internal matters.

    Progressive and liberal movement in Europe became more active and assumed populist form after 1830. Swiss masses also got affected by the newly emerging revolutionary trends and were successful in forming progressive democratic governments in many Cantons. The new regimes aimed at integrating the Swiss governmental system  with new emerging liberal trends. But extra revolutionary activities of the progressive elements gave way to internal disturbances. As a result, seven Cantons, dominated by the Catholic majority, threatened to secede from the Confederation. The Confederal government, on the other hand, severely dealt with the reactionary trends and resorted to high-handedness. A state of civil war continued for some-time but the secessionist Cantons' had to surrender ultimately. On perceiving the new popular trends, the Central Legislative Assembly, however, drafted a new Constitution in 1848, which was later approved by the people through referendum.

    5. The Constitution of 1848/2000
    The Constitution of 1848 was a subtle mixture of old traditions and contemporary trends. The powers of the federal government were increased under the Constitution, especially its control over foreign affairs, defense and certain economic activities, was made more effective. Bicameral legislature was established in which the lower Chamber was organized on popular basis while the Upper Chamber represented the federating units on parity basis. Federal Council was vested with the supreme executive authority. Maximum autonomy was secured to the Cantons especially to conduct matters of regional importance.

    With the lapse of time, the need for a more effective central government began NI be realized desperately in all quarters. In the face of the changing political trends, the Constitution was revised in 1874 to cope up with the new needs. Drastic changes were inserted in the new draft of the Constitution. The Legislative Assembly gave its approval to the revised draft and later it was approved by the people at a referendum. The revised draft of the Constitution, after its approval, was enforced on 29th May, 1874, and remained in force till, 1999. A new Constitution was approved in the Referendum held on 18 April, 1999, and enforced on 1st January 2000, Nevertheless, there is no basic difference between both the Constitutions.

    Under this Constitution', such a federal system has been introduced which can ensure the establishment of an effective central government along 1 with securing maximum autonomy to the Cantons. The powers of the central government were expanded especially in matters of industry and commerce. The sphere of state action was also increased in various fields of life. The traditional devices of direct democracy have not only been preserved, rather further strengthened. Though this country has never remained a member of 0 UN, it is likely to perform in future its due role in the world body. The referendum held on 3 March 2002 approved a government proposal aiming at attending General Assembly Session of September 2002, on the part of Switzerland.
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