The modern state of Switzerland was established in 1848, prior to which Switzerland consisted of an alliance of independent cantons. When the modern constitution was formed certain areas like foreign affairs, the financial policy was centralized and interests of separate cantons were linked to those of the entire country. Switzerland is defined as a federal state composed of different 26 cantons having a parliamentary democracy. This means that the people elect the parliament and the latter then forms the government.
The government of the confederation (executive) consists of seven ministers of equal standing, chosen by the Federal Assembly (legislative). Switzerland does not have a full-time president. The Federal President is one of the seven ministers and is chosen by the parliament for a term of 1 year. He nevertheless does not dispose of more power than the other six ministers do.
In a country of direct democracy, people can participate directly in the politics. In all cantons, the communities are organized. One of the oldest forms of democracy is so-called “Landsgemeinde”.
Throughout Switzerland, residents vote on average four times during a year on various issues concerning their community, their canton or the whole country. For example, they can vote on whether to have a new school build in a village, or on how the canton should produce its electricity.
In addition, every four years the people elect the two hundred and forty-six members of the national parliament. It consists of two chambers. The House of Representatives is representing the people, and the Senate is representing the cantons.
Parliament makes laws and elects the national government, which consists of various parties. People can overturn laws made by the parliament by launching a referendum. If they manage to collect 50.000 signatures within 100 days, the bill has to be voted on the public. The people's initiative allows them to alter the Swiss constitution.
The main advantage of the system is that it gives the Swiss citizens a lot of power in decision-making. Several times a year they can make decisions not just on who runs the country but also on concrete proposals and issues.
On average, only two out of five people actually participate in public votes and elections. Despites some differences, Switzerland’s direct democracy is unique. Switzerland has the only system where the direct democracy plays an actual important role. Such as in decision-making at the national level on the votes and issues. These determine the political agenda to a great degree. In general, we can say, that the fundamental principle that describes Swiss political system is that the People are the highest authority in the Swiss Confederation. Swiss people choose their representative for the Federal Assembly and at the same time express their opinion on federal, cantonal and communal levels. Cantons and communes have their own sources of income and extensive power to make decisions.
The direct democracy allows Swiss people to decide the way of life they prefer. They participate in different polls and referendums providing satisfaction to the population and stability to the country.
With the combination of neutrality and federalism, direct democracy characterizes a part of the Swiss national identity. The Swiss political system is the key that unites different languages, religions and cultures in Switzerland.