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Switzerland Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

In Switzerland, power is close to the people. Human rights are generally respected, but human rights organizations fear that some initiatives taken in recent years may worsen the situation of immigrants and minorities.

Switzerland is a strongly decentralized democracy where the central power is unusually weak. This applies partly in relation to the 26 cantons (states) and partly in relation to citizens who can tear up government decisions by referendums (see Political system).

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The country is regarded as free and has ratified the key conventions on human rights. Freedom of association and assembly is enshrined in the Constitution, as is freedom of religion and the possibility of forming parties and acting politically.

In recent years, a number of controversial proposals have been put forward at federal level or through referendums. The background is a domestic debate about national self-determination in relation to international law, combined with what appears to be an increased concern about immigration (See Calendar). Criticism has been voiced by human rights organizations that have feared the erosion of international law and human rights.

In its report on Switzerland for 2018, the UN Committee on Human Rights writes that the central government has successfully succeeded in parrying local initiatives in accordance with international law and that the lively debate that followed in the wake of the controversial initiatives can be seen as signs of a living democracy.

Switzerland is distinguished by first introducing female suffrage at national level in 1971 (see Political system). Women are still under-represented in the business world, but in recent years a relatively rapid development has taken place in the political sphere. About 35 percent of the Members of Parliament are women.

Democracy and Human Rights of SwitzerlandCorruption is low. Switzerland ranks third in the 2018 Transparency International index with 180 countries (see here).

Freedom of expression and media

Freedom of opinion and press has been guaranteed in the constitution since 1874. Censorship is expressly prohibited even if freedom of expression is limited in view of legislation on incitement against ethnic groups.

The media climate is good, but above all the newspaper industry has been hit hard financially by the competition from the Internet. There are also problems with a small number of owners controlling a large proportion of the media.

The Internet is open and accessible.

The country lacks an equivalent to the principle of publicity, although there are certain requirements for transparency at the federal level. The lack of legislation is criticized by Reporters Without Borders, who see difficulties in conducting investigative journalism in the country.

Switzerland placed sixth on Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2019, which is a relegation with a place from 2018 (see here).

2020

May

Society is opening up more and more

May 11

The country's schools and libraries are allowed to reopen, as are the museums. Restaurants and cafes are also allowed to serve guests again, if the tables are kept separate. People are still advised to wear face protection when traveling with public transportation. Already from the end of April, restrictions gradually began to be lifted in the country when hairdressers and several shops could again receive customers. From the beginning of June, sports facilities and swimming pools, cinemas and more are expected to be open when collections with more than five people are also allowed.

March

Significant increase in covid-19 cases

March 16

The government announces an emergency permit to fight the corona virus. It closes schools and prohibits gatherings with more than a hundred people and border controls have been introduced to prevent the corona virus from spreading further in the country. In some cantons, restaurants, bars and shops are also not open. In addition, the national parliament has suspended operations in the spring. To help companies and employers cope with the difficult situation, the government will provide a total of just over EUR 10 billion. In recent days, the number of cases of covid-19 has doubled and just over two thousand people have fallen ill while 14 people have died.


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