Swiss Federal Constitution

The Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation (French Constitution fédérale de la Confédération suisse, Italian Costituzione federale della Svizzera Confederazione, Romansh Constituziun federala da la Confederaziun svizra ) of 18 April 1999 ( abbreviated BV, SR 101) is the constitution of Switzerland. It goes back to the first Federal Constitution of 12 September 1848 with which Switzerland was unified by the confederation to a federal state.

Position in the legal hierarchy

The Federal Constitution is on the top step of the Swiss legal system. Your are subordinate to all regulations and orders of the Federal as well as the constitutions, laws, regulations and decrees of the cantons and the municipalities. Basically, these of the Federal Constitution must not contradict therefore.

An exception to this rule are the federal laws. They must be applied by the Federal Court and other courts even with unconstitutionality. Thus, there is no constitutional jurisdiction for federal laws. This special rule is an expression of the increased emphasis the principle of democracy against the rule of law: The provisions adopted by the people's representatives - and possibly adopted in a referendum by voters - Laws should not be set by a court except force.

Structure and content

The Constitution is initiated with the preamble that "In the name of God Almighty! " Begins with the reference to God. The actual text of the Constitution is divided into six titles: Title 1 contains general provisions, such as the purpose of the state (Article 2), the position of the cantons (Article 3), to the national languages ​​(Article 4) and to the principles of constitutional action ( Article 5). Title 2 describes the fundamental rights (Article 7-36), civil rights (Art. 37-40 ) and social objectives (Art. 41).

Title 3 is called " Confederation, cantons and municipalities " and regulates in Articles 43-135, the division of powers between the three governmental levels of detail. This is in particular the comprehensive list of responsibilities of the Federation ( Art. 54-125 ) are important: Every decree of the Federal must be based on such a standard. If there is no explicit federal jurisdiction in a given area, the cantons are responsible for and the federal government is not in the competence to legislate (see federalism in Switzerland subsidiarity). The powers of the Federal were in course of time constantly expanded, and today, this list is subject to relatively frequent changes - whether by means of kick-off of the federal mandatory referendum or popular initiatives.

The fourth title is overwritten with "people and objects» and governs in Article 136-142 the political rights of the people and the cantons, especially the direct democratic rights of the people ( initiative and referendum). Title 5 is devoted to the federal authorities and outlines the organization and powers of the Federal Assembly (legislature, Article 143-173 ), the Federal Council and the Federal Government ( executive, Articles 174-187 ) and the Federal Court and other judicial authorities ( judiciary, type. 188-191 and Article 191a -c). The sixth and last title includes the revision possibilities of the Constitution (Art. 192-195, see below) and the transitional provisions (Art. 196 and 197).


The basis for the present Federal Constitution, the Constitution of 12 September 1848, when Switzerland became united by the confederation to a federal state. She was strongly influenced by the Constitution of the United States and the ideas of the French Revolution. It provided that the cantons independent ( sovereign ), insofar as they do not explicitly limit this sovereignty. The introduction of the Constitution of 1848 were short armed conflict ahead ( Sonderbundskrieg ).

The Constitution of 1848 was partly revised in 1866: The Jews received equality; however, it declined to the people, the cantonal and municipal elections and to grant the Practising (also Swiss nationality ) vote. The first complete revision of the constitution came into force in 1874. It provided for an expansion of federal powers and rights of the people. With this complete revision and the referendum laws at the federal level has been introduced. Since 1891, the Constitution provides for the right of initiative for a partial revision of the Federal Constitution. Consequently, a fraction of the voters can (currently 100,000 ) to propose the adoption, amendment or repeal certain provisions of the Federal Constitution and obtain a vote of the people and cantons ( cantons ). Partial revisions of the Constitution are possible at any time.

The last complete revision of the Swiss constitution dates from 1999. It was a follow-up, within the framework of unwritten constitutional law ( established under the Supreme Court, the Federal Supreme Court ) was codified and not belonging to a constitutional level rules (eg ban on absinthe ) were " downgraded ". The federal constitution was revised in the 1990s and approved by the people and cantons on 18 April 1999, 59.2 percent or 12 whole and 2 half of 20 whole and half 6 capable cast. It replaced the Federal Constitution of 29 May 1874 ( old Federal Constitution, in short ABV), which has for nine different, until then only retained in deciding the federal court and law commentaries fundamental rights recognized. It entered into force on 1 January 2000.

Revision opportunities

The Federal Constitution can be changed any time. The amendment to the approval of the majority of the people and the cantons needs ( cantons ). The alterableness content is thereby set bounds that the Constitution mandatory international law must not violate. The partial revision must also not violate the principle of unity of matter. As an unwritten condition the actual feasibility of the initiative is recognized. Whether further substantive barriers exist by the core areas of the fundamental principles of the constitution as fundamental rights, federalism, democracy and the rule of law are binding, is denied in practice the Federal Assembly so far, by the legal doctrine assessed but uneven.

A constitutional amendment may be required by a decision of the Federal Assembly or by the people through a popular initiative. Switzerland's Federal Constitution - in contrast for example to the United States Constitution - a Constitution that is frequently modified.