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Swiss Democracy

By | November 2012
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Switzerland provides for a unique case study in that it has adopted what is quite possibly the most pure form of direct democracy known the modern world. In addition, it has undergone startlingly few changes since its implementation in the late 19th century. It’s success lies within its fulfillment of all ten requirements of democracy in an effective and unique manner. The cultural, economic, and methodical foundations of this system have culminated into an exceptionally stable model. While it currently faces a large shift in its political ethos, primarily due to the effects of recent immigration and globalization, the system has responded to reflect the desires of its constituency. There is also concerns over the country’s social security system due to the shrinking youth population, however, government support and the standard of living has remained high thus far. The Swiss political system is composed of 26 cantons and 3,000 smaller communes from which are largely autonomous. Policing, school administration, health systems, and tax collection have all historically been run by these divisions, and since 1999 all powers not granted to the federal government, including defense, social insurance, and foreign affairs have also been decided at the local level. The result of such subsystem autonomy has been that it is difficult for a single party to emerge as broadly aggregative, but also a large degree of citizen participation. However, it is curious to note that in most cases of such high fragmentation, a large degree of instability and stagnation is observed. This proves not to be the case with Switzerland though, as the political elites of the country have been known to take an active role in counteracting the usual instability and political stalemates that have been observed in many central European democracies with high cultural fragmentation (Lijphart, 1969). The central legislative governing body by which most of the elites reside is known as the Federal...

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