The small country we live in has a population of 8.57 million people and 4 national languages. It’s in the middle of Europe and yet has managed to stay famously neutral.
But how did that all come about? This informative series of short articles: “Inside Switzerland” is brought to Living in Nyon thanks to Jon Wyler. It gives us some insight into our wonderfully complex and highly efficient country.
You’re living on the “bassin lémanique” but haven’t quite figured out Swiss culture or how to interact with the locals? A good starting point is understanding the origins of Switzerland itself:
Central to trade in Europe, the alpine passes were sought after by many powers. Today’s Switzerland originated in 1291 when the communities of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden* formed an alliance to ensure their freedoms under the House of Habsburg. This was not yet an uprising – although that would soon change. Today the “Helvetic Confederation” is composed of 26 cantons since the Jura seceded from Bern in 1979 and the half-cantons* were officialised in 1999.
Switzerland has a unique political system. It is managed by 7 members of the Federal Council, who take turns being president every year. The term managing a country opposes that of governing. Specifically, it means the role of elected officials is to manage the country’s public operations & policies as per the people’s wishes. The president has no additional power, and is tasked with representing the country.
The Federal Council is elected by parliament, whose members are in turn elected by the people. The Federal Council is composed of two representatives from the Liberal Party (PLR), two representatives from the Swiss Social Democratic Party (PS), two representatives from the Swiss People’s Party (UDC), and one representative from the Swiss Christian Democratic Party (PDC).
Switzerland is a direct democracy, meaning the people can vote on almost everything.
Have a closer look at the most recent vote results in English from the 27th of September with an interactive and informative map.
Next up in this series are the regions and the cantons. What’s decided on national or regional level and what’s up with the röstigraben?
*Today the cantons of Nidwalden and Obwalden
*Basel Stadt & Basel Land, Appenzell Innerrhoden & Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Obwalden & Nidwalden
Jon Wyler is a Swiss/Luxembourg bi-national. He grew up between Geneva, Hawaii and Beijing. Hospitality-trained, he has for most of his life followed his passion working in live music production, which took him around the world. Jon recently settled on the shores of lake Neuchâtel with his German wife who’s trying to figure out the in’s & out’s of her adopted country.