Why don't people choose a character

Elections and voting

This page is about elections, a central element of democracy.

learning goals

At the bottom of this page you can:

  1. assess what voting and voting mean.
  2. explain what features a fair Make an election or vote.
  3. discuss why initiatives and referendums direct democratic Procedures are mentioned.

Elections & Votes

In this part we will deal with the central elements of a democracy: elections and voting. We do this based on Switzerland. To understand how elections work in Switzerland, we must first look at some features of the Swiss political system.

Choose: When voting will be people or Parties determined (or elected).
Vote: When voting is over Factual issues certainly.

Voting and voting in Switzerland

Switzerland is a semi-direct democracy. As we saw above, this means that the people elect a parliament (the legislature) in free elections. In Switzerland there are two different ones in parliament Chambers: the National Council and the Council of States. These in turn jointly elect the Federal Council (the executive branch) and have the opportunity to pass laws. Most of the laws, namely around 93%, are passed by parliament. The people who are elected in parliament decide in most cases on behalf of the whole people on laws.

In contrast to indirect democracy, the people in Switzerland also have the opportunity to influence the constitution and the laws. This is done with two different instruments, the referendum and the initiativewhich enable the electorate to vote on issues or to reject laws determined by parliament.

The rights and duties of the population, parliament and the government are laid down in the constitution and laws. Compliance with these laws is verified by independent courts (the judiciary).

Who do we choose?

The Swiss parliament is elected by citizens of Switzerland who are entitled to vote. This takes place in an independent election, which takes place every four years. Two independent so-called chambers are elected: the National Council and the Council of States.

The Federal Council, i.e. the executive branch of Switzerland, is not elected by the people, but by the legislature, i.e. both chambers in parliament.

Parliament: National Council and Council of States

The Council of States

  • is also known as the small chamber.
  • consists of 46 members of the cantons.
  • Each full canton in Switzerland has 2 members.
  • Half-cantons each have 1 deputy.
    The Half cantons are: Obwalden, Nidwalden, Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden.

The National Council

  • is also known as the Great Chamber.
  • consists of 200 members.
  • The representatives are elected by the people in the cantons.
  • The number of national councilors in a canton is determined by the size of the cantons: Cantons with a larger population (including foreigners) have more seats than smaller cantons.
  • However, each canton has at least one seat on the National Council.

Why are there two chambers?

If only the National Council existed, it is feared that parliamentarians from larger cantons would be in the majority. The concerns of the population in small cantons would go under as the members of the smaller cantons could be outvoted by the larger ones. To compensate, there is the Council of States, in which each canton has an equal number of members. This means that the interests of the population of small cantons are adequately represented in parliament.


With a few exceptions, all persons with Swiss citizenship who are over 18 years of age have the active and passiveSuffrage. This means that they can vote other people into parliament (active) as well as let themselves stand up for election (passive).


Instead of standing up for election as an individual, most people join a so-called Political party at.

A party is an association in which people with similar political opinions come together to shape politics in a country according to their views and attitudes. So they bundle the various interests that exist in a society and bring like-minded people together. There are parties at both canton and federal level. Usually the parties are identical on both levels. You will take on various tasks in Swiss politics:

  • Political parties nominate persons from their ranks who are ready to run for political office in elections.
  • Parties contribute to opinion-forming by informing the population about their opinions on political proposals and issues.
  • Political parties run election and voting campaigns.
  • Traditionally, the four largest parties in Parliament share the seven Federal Council seats among themselves.

Fair elections

Again and again you hear that an election in a country was manipulated - that is, falsified - and that it was not fair. But what does this mean?
For an election to be fair in a democratic sense, it should be guaranteed that all citizens equal suffrage have.
In the case of fair elections, it should also be ensured that all eligible voters have the have the same number of votes. Whether poor or rich, each person should have equal weight in a choice. In addition, an election is fair if the electorate is eligible free and secret may choose. So nobody should force them to vote for a particular party. In addition, you don't have to tell anyone who you voted for.
Election manipulation but often happen when counting the ballot papers. Therefore, the people who count the ballot papers must independently be.
In order for fair elections to be held, it is also important that citizens are free to form an opinion and to be able to exchange ideas. For a democracy it is necessary that the Freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech and the Freedom of the press guaranteed. In a democratic state it must therefore be guaranteed that people can also exchange ideas publicly and can freely express their opinions.


In contrast to voting, people are not elected when voting, but decisions are made on issues. These issues can vary in nature in Switzerland. Almost all topics can be brought to the attention of the people by initiative. The only exceptions are political concerns which are against mandatory international law how violate human rights. For example, there should be no vote on whether the death penalty should be reintroduced in Switzerland.

Initiatives and referendums

initiative: By collecting 100,000 signatures on a political issue, a vote on a constitutional amendment can be obtained. So the people have that active Possibility to change the constitution. However, this does not only require 100,000 signatures: Of course, the subsequent vote must be accepted by a majority of the electorate!
referendum: In contrast to the initiative, the referendum tends to have one passive Character, because you cannot write your own ideas / wishes into the constitution with this means, but only laws that have been passed by parliament again cancel can.
If the parliament has passed a new law, a referendum on this law can be brought about by collecting 50,000 signatures within 100 days of the parliamentary decision. Again, this does not mean that the law will then also be rejected by the electorate, but only that the people can vote on it.

Initiatives and referendums are direct democratic Procedure. They give the people the opportunity to determine political issues themselves. In indirect democracies - as the name suggests - this is only possible indirectly through elected parliamentary representatives. If a concern is to be discussed and voted on at the political level, one must either find access to a member of parliament or draw attention to the concern via demonstration, strike or public calls on the Internet, etc. In contrast to an initiative, however, such procedures are much more complicated and the likelihood that something will actually happen is much smaller.

The direct democratic procedures in Switzerland give the population the opportunity to participate very actively in political events. If there is a referendum or an initiative, this does not mean that it will actually be accepted by the electorate. Especially with initiatives, the probability of an acceptance is only around 12%. In the referendum, the number is higher, at around 45%.

Finally, let yourself go through what you have read and try to answer the following questions:

  • What are the differences between voting and voting?
  • Which direct democratic Procedure do you know? Why are these referred to as direct democratic?
  • What is the role of Parliament?
  • What are the legislative ones Chambers in Switzerland?