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General Facts


1848: The founding of Switzerland
The establishment of the modern state of Switzerland dates back to 1848. Prior to this, Switzerland consisted of a loose alliance of independent cantons.
In 1848 Switzerland formed a modern constitution which made a federal state of the confederation. A central government took over certain areas such as the foreign and financial policy responsibilities of the cantons. The Constitution had to link the various interests of the individual cantons with the overall interests of the federal state.

Form of government and system of government
Switzerland is a parliamentary democracy with a direct democracy.
The Federal Assembly of Switzerland has a bicameral parliament: This consists of the National Council of the representatives of the people (200 members) and the Council of States representing the cantons (46 members). The Federal Assembly elects the Federal Council – the collective head of state, consisting of 7 members.

Federalism and direct democracy
Unique to this small country is its strong federalism. This is expressed in two ways: In the strong autonomy of the 26 cantons and their municipalities, as well as in their direct participation in political decision-making.
It is not only the cantons that have a major influence – the individual citizens also do. This is the result of the country’s direct democracy: People's initiatives and referendums (polls held every quarter) give citizens the chance to influence the government.

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