The rural community in Switzerland is one of the oldest and simplest forms of direct democracy. The election and the voting citizens of a canton assemble on a certain day in the open air in order to carry out their constitutional duties. These differ depending on the canton; Although it is decided both in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus on constitutional amendments, laws, and large expenditures to the rural community; only in Appenzell Innerrhoden elects the rural community but also the government, only in Glarus, she is responsible for determining the tax base.


At the rural community each and every voter can take to a question, the word. When tuning, or the " Mehren " (legal name of the vote), the voting card is kept in the air in Glarus. In the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden the open hand more true. To get there in the ring, the area of the voters, in addition to the papery voting card also the most ancestral sword ( bayonet called ) can be presented.

Cantonal rural communities still exist in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus today. Local rural communities are organized in some districts of the canton of Schwyz and smaller circles of the Canton of Grisons. Ultimately, the usual in the smaller and medium-sized Swiss municipalities municipal assemblies local " rural communities ".

The rural community is similar to other early democratic decision forums, such as the Thing or the Athenian Assembly. The Swiss rural communities have their origins, however, in the medieval corporations.


Originally there were eight Swiss cantons in a rural community at the cantonal level - so in addition to Glarus and Appenzell Inner Rhodes earlier in train, Schwyz, Uri, Obwalden, Nidwalden, and Appenzell Ausserrhoden ( first mentioned in 1403 ).

The rural municipality was abolished

Today there is the rural community at the cantonal level only in Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus, where she is the highest political authority in the canton. In the canton of Graubünden or regional rural communities ( " Bsatzig ") will take place, including that until 2009 Schanfigg.

Cantonal differences

Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus

In the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden Appenzell rural community is in on the last Sunday in April, except if this overlaps with the Easter Sunday. Then, the meeting shall be postponed to the first Sunday in May. The Glarus municipality is, however, on the first Sunday instead ( in very bad weather shift by a week).

At the Glarus municipality, voters may " advise, reduce, multiply and choose ." This means that they can about each property business require the word request a change, move a template or reject. By the amendment the right to vote and woman - suffrage was introduced in 1971 at all levels. The original proposal submitted to the proposals contained only rights at deeper levels of community (eg, school community ). In May 2006, also a fusion of far 25 municipalities of the canton was decided to only three by the right of amendment. The original template had ten municipalities provided.

In Appenzell Innerrhoden and in Glarus, there is the special right of individual initiative. Referred to in the Canton of Glarus Memorial application may be submitted in writing by any voters. The rural municipality is true then from it. Through such individual initiatives, for example, separation of powers and financial referendum were introduced in Appenzell.

Appenzell Ausserrhoden

The rural municipality in Appenzell Ausserrhoden was abolished at a previously agreed to the rural community ballot on September 28, 1997 ( with 54.0 percent votes stake at a turnout of 61 percent). At the rural community of 1993 this had still clearly in favor of their retention.

The abolition was the culmination of a decades- long dispute over the introduction of the cantonal women's suffrage. The male Swiss voters had already approved the introduction of women's suffrage at the federal level in 1971, but the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden rejected this as the entire Eastern majority share ( Neinstimmenanteil: 60.1 percent; federal level, only 34.3 percent). The very scarce adoption of the relevant constitutional amendment to the rural community in 1989 was controversial. Namely, if a clear decision by " Mehren » (optical determination of the majority from the panel ) was not possible, provided for the constitution that has the casting vote could be made by the Chief Magistrate. After repeated Mehren the Magistrate declared the template adopted. The Magistrate and the government justified their behavior with the - in their opinion - short but clear majority of votes, while critics explain this as a conscious disregard of the popular will and " Forcing " of a decision within the meaning of the Government Council. This incident clearly demonstrated the vulnerability of the decision-making to the rural community. From that time many supporters of the original shape withdrew and no longer participated in the rural community.

A popular initiative for the " reintroduction of rural municipality in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden " was rejected on 13 June 2010 in a ballot with 70.3 percent against.

Criticism of the rural community

Only the very fact that the rural community in most cantons - but for different reasons - was abolished, showing that it is not an undisputed institution.

  • Critics complain that the basic democratic right is not guaranteed in a secret ballot by this form of democracy. The Switzerland had because even a reservation to article 25Vorlage. Kind / Maintenance / ch- search of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights attach.
  • There are also logistical problems as in larger communities such as Appenzell Ausserrhoden can not be easily found space for a gathering of tens of thousands of citizens available and the shuttle service is also not easy.
  • In the canton of Glarus, the problem is that there is no exact count of the votes. Instead, the Magistrate decides (with scarce decision with the help of four other members of the Government ) by eye, as the majority is. To avoid injustice, the unwritten law is that of the Chief Magistrate in doubt, decides against itself.
  • Another problem is people who vote unduly to the rural community, in Glarus, however, input controls are now being made. The mutual social control ( everyone knows everyone ) restricts the fraud. The same applies if someone is holding up both hands in to vote. But to counter this uncertainty, is tuned for the rural community in 2005 by means of color unique voting cards. The color of the card change at this time every year. The introduction of an electronically assisted voting, although technically feasible, front hand reset for cost reasons.

In the canton of Glarus, the rural community is largely undisputed, despite these criticisms. The Supreme Court of Switzerland ( Federal Court ) has this kind of decision- protected (BGE 104 IA 428 and BGE 121 I 138).

In addition, Switzerland has an exception clause for the rural communities pasted in ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR ), as they actually various points, including the secret ballot disagree.

Criticism of the cooperative form of democracy the rural community reflects the converted in the modern understanding of democracy:


The painting The rural community, which adorns the south wall of the Senate Hall in the Federal Palace in Bern, is a rural community in the 18th century. The painter Albert Welti and Wilhelm Balmer presented it to the town square in Stans is, but with the landscape around Sarnen.