Swiss Politics and Political Institutions (iMPA 2011)

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September 20 to October 6, 2011

Prof. Andreas Ladner


Switzerland has a quite unique political system which shapes both policies and politics. Starting with a brief glance at the history of country the students will get familiar with the most important pillars of the political system such as federalism, consensus democracy and direct democracy. Switzerland is a typical case of bottom-up executive federalism, with a long tradition of power sharing among the most important parties and far reaching means of direct democracy such as popular referendums and initiatives on all political levels. We will study together the functioning of these institutions and discuss actual challenges and reforms. Furthermore we will ask to what extent these institutions shape the behaviour of political actors and specific policies. A special emphasis is put on lower level units such as the cantons and the municipalities. And we will also have a look at the Swiss party system with its numerous parties.

1.      Society and History

2.   Federalism and Local Autonomy

3.      Government  and Parliament

4.      Direct Democracy

5.      Party system and political parties

6.      Voters and Elections


 Special Topic: BADAC Database: State of the State(s) in Switzerland (October 11-13, 2011)


Klöti, Ulrich et al. (Hrsg.). Handbook of Swiss Politics. Zürich: Neue Zürcher Zeitung Publishing. 2nd edition.

Kriesi, Hanspeter and Alexander H. Trechsel (2008). The Politics of Switzerland. Continuity and Change in a Consensus Democracy. Cambridge: University Press.

Linder, Wolf (2010): Swiss Democracy, Possible Solutions to Conflict in Multicultural Societies, New York/London: Palgrave Macmillan. 3rd edition.

Ladner, Andreas (2011). "Switzerland: Subsidiarity, Power Sharing and Direct Democracy", in: Loughlin, J., Hendriks, F., Lidström, A. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe. pp.196-220.

Ladner, Andreas (2007). „Political Parties“, in: Klöti, Ulrich et al. (Hrsg.). Handbook of Swiss Politics. Zürich: Neue Zürcher Zeitung Publishing. 2nd edition. pp. 309-334.


Lijphart, Arend (1999). Patterns of Democracy. Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. New Haven and London: Yale University Press (download) (download part two)




About Switzerland:

Swiss history in English:

Swiss history in Chinese:


Swiss politics in English:

Swiss politics in Chinese:


OECD: Governments at a Glance 2011:,3746,en_2649_33735_43714657_1_1_1_1,00.html


Program and Slides Readings/Afternoon
20.09.2011 1. Society and History Lijphart, Arend (1999) (download)
21.09.2011 2. Federalism Text Federalism
22.09.2011 The Reform of Swiss Federalism  
27.09.2011 Swiss municipalities Text Municipalities
28.09.2011 3. Government Text Government
29.09.2011 and Parliament  
04.10.2011 4. Direct Democracy Text Direct Democracy
05.10.2011 5. Party System and Parties Text Political Parties,
06.10.2011 6. Citizens and Elections