Switzerland: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, size, population, and government of the country Switzerland.



Location--Landlocked in the center of Western Europe. Bordered by France, Western Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Italy.

How Created--Present political boundaries stem from 700 years of economic, military, and political treaties signed between Swiss states, or cantons. First mutual assistance pact dates from 1291 when 3 cantons combined to defend against attacks from Hapsburg Austria. Switzerland now comprises 22 cantons, the last 3 having joined the Swiss Confederation in 1815.

Size--15,941 sq. mi. (41,288 sq. km.). More than twice the size of New Jersey.

Population--Over 6,500,000: German, 64.9%; French, 18.1%; Italian, 11.9%; Romansch, 0.8%; other, 4.3%. 49.4% Roman Catholic, 47.7% Protestant, 0.3% Jewish, 2.6% other.

Who Rules--The Swiss have long prided themselves on their experience with a constitutional, federal, democratic form of government. Universal suffrage--women received the vote only in 1972--elects members to a 2-house legislature every 4 years. National Council has 44 members, two from each canton; National Assembly has 200 members. Both houses elect Federal Chancellor; Chancellor's Council is composed of 7 members from various political parties, the Federal Tribunal, and in times of crisis the Federal General. The latter directs Switzerland's 400,000 person reservist Army. There is no standing Army.

Who REALLY Rules--Three political parties voicing the attitudes of their respective followers have distinct advantages. The Radicals, the Social Democrats, and the Conservative and Christian Social party habitually control 75% of the seats in the Federal Assembly. Consequently they select the administrative, legislative, and judicial branches of government. It is customary for 2 members of each party to occupy 6 of the 7 seats in the Chancellor's Council.

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