On 12 September 2023, Switzerland’s parliament celebrated the 175th anniversary of the nation’s federal constitution.
Exactly 175 years ago in 1848 Switzerland’s federal constitution came into force following political crisis and a war between protestants and catholics in 1847 known as the Sonderbund War.
The new federal constitution gave the cantons sovereignty as long as their governance did not impinge on the document. The creation of Switzerland’s bicameral assembly, which is set out in part of the constitution, was inspired by the United States Constitution.
Over the years a number of changes have been made. The first in 1891 introduced popular votes, Switzerland’s famous referendum that allows voters to change the constitution.
Since 1891, a further 22 changes have been made to Switzerland’s governing document, including a significant update in the 1990s. The changes include the prohibition of absinthe (1908), proportional representation in parliament and the upper house (1918), a prohibition on gambling (1920), exemptions to the ban on casinos (1928), the protection of wetlands (1987), a moratorium on nuclear power plants (1990), the introduction of Swiss national day (1993), accession to the United Nations (2002), a prohibition on the construction of minarets (2009), a mechanism to deport convicted foreign citizens (2010), a limitation of building permits for holiday homes (2012) and the principle of immigration quotas (2014).
There are currently discussions among politicians and voters around another significant update.
An English translation of the latest version of the constitution can be found here.