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Political system

How does Switzerland’s political system work? What rights of co-determination do foreign residents of Lucerne have? What political parties exist in Lucerne and in Switzerland?

You can listen to brief introductory information in your language here:

+ Switzerland's political system
+ The Swiss Confederation - a brief guide
+ consultation hour with the mayor

Frequently asked questions
Switzerland’s laws are based on a federal constitution, which makes it a constitutional state. Switzerland is a direct democracy, because its citizens can participate in decision-making on public matters.
Switzerland is federalistic, as it consists of cantons that have extensive autonomy. Present-day Switzerland has 26 cantons, six of which are half-cantons. They differ in size and are not uniform in regard to either language or religion. The individual communities are only autonomous to the extent that the federal government and cantons permit them freedom of action.
+ Swiss political system

Recommendable free brochure on the Swiss political system in several languages:
+ The Swiss Confederation - a brief guide

Swiss Statistics:
+ The Cantons and their Principal Cities (with Map)

Video information on the Swiss parliament from www.ich-will-waehlen.ch:

YouTube video: Please note the terms of use.
Switzerland is a multiple-party nation. The following parties are the most important (in alphabetical order):
  • Bürgerlich-Demokratische Partei (BDP) - Civic-Democratic Party
  • Christlichdemokratische Volkspartei (CVP) - Christian-Democratic Party
  • Evangelische Volkspartei (EVP) - Protestant People’s Party
  • Freisinnig-Demokratische Partei. Die Liberalen (FDP) - Liberal-Democratic Party
  • Grüne Partei der Schweiz (GPS) - Green Party of Switzerland
  • Grünliberale Partei (GLP) - Green-Liberal Party
  • Lega dei Ticinesi (Lega) - Ticino League
  • Mouvement Citoyens Romands/Genevois (MCR/MCG) - French-Speaking Citizens’/Geneva Movement
  • Schweizerische Volkspartei (SVP) - Swiss People’s Party
  • Sozialdemokratische Partei (SP) - Social-Democratic Party
+ Political parties represented in the Swiss parliament
Switzerland’s citizens have a wide range of possibilities to actively participate in shaping the political system. All residents who are at least 18 years of age and have Swiss citizenship are eligible. The most important civil liberties are briefly explained below:
  • Electoral power (Wahlrecht): Citizens elect their representatives to parliament every four years.
  • Voting rights: Citizens who are eligible may vote in plebiscites (Volksabstimmungen) on pertinent issues or laws at the local, cantonal, and federal level.
  • The right to propose initiatives and referendums: Citizens can request changes in the federal constitution by presenting an initiative; by means of a referendum, they can demand that parliamentary decisions are subjected to a definitive vote by the public.
  • The right to petition: This allows any persons - including migrants - to submit written requests, proposals, and complaints to public authorities.
+ swissworld.org - further information on the topic
+ ch.ch - Civil rights in Switzerland
There are a variety of ways to become involved in the political system in Lucerne. You can participate in commissions, special-interest groups, and organizations. In this way, you can bring about changes at the local level, for example, in your neighborhood or in the community. You can inquire in your neighborhood or look for special-interest groups and organizations.

Organizations in Lucerne
+ Neighborhood organizations (Quartiervereine)
There are no electoral and voting rights for foreign nationals at the city or cantonal level in Lucerne.

A popular motion in 2014 has made it possible for residents with type C permit to participate in political decision-making. If 200 city residents (including those with a C permit) sign a petition, the city parliament is obliged to deal with their request.

There are additional options for foreigners to become involved in politics in Lucerne: they have the right to initiate or sign petitions. It is also possible to join commissions, special-interest groups, and organizations.
City of Lucerne
The city parliament (Grosser Stadtrat) is the legislative body of the city of Lucerne. It consists of 48 members who are elected in a proportional process by the city’s eligible voters for four-year terms. Six parties are represented in the Grosser Stadtrat (CVP, FDP, G/JG, GLP, SP/JUSO, SVP).
The executive branch of the city of Lucerne, the City Council (Stadtrat), consists of five full-time members. The Stadtrat is elected every four years by a majority process. Each city councillor is responsible for one of the five departments: finance, education, traffic and security, buildings, and social services.

Canton Lucerne
The Cantonal Council (Kantonsrat) and Executive Council (Regierungsrat) comprise the legislative and executive branches of the canton Lucerne. The Kantonsrat consists of 120 members who are elected by a proportional process. The Regierungsrat, like the city council, has five members who are responsible for the different departments.

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