Country of the World Switzerland

About the country Switzerland, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.

NATIONS AND THEIR RULER

SWITZERLAND

NITTY-GRITTY

Lay of the Land: Europe's backbone, watershed, and most mountainous country, landlocked in the heart of the continent. The mighty Alps, Europe's largest mountain system, cover 60% of Switzerland. The Rhine, Rhone, and feeders of the Danube and Po originate in Switzerland.

Size: 15,941 sq. mi. (41,288 sq. km.).

Population: 6.5 million.

Who Rules: Switzerland is a constitutional, democratic republic, a confederation of 22 cantons (or 25 federated states: 19 cantons and 6 half-cantons), each canton retaining a great deal of autonomy. The Federal Assembly consists of a Council of States, with two representatives from each canton and one from each half-canton, and a 200-member National Council elected on the basis of proportional representation. The chief executive body, the Federal Council, with seven members, is elected by the Federal Assembly and in turn elects a president of the confederation.

Who REALLY Rules: The major parties, the Radicals, Social Democrats, Conservatives, and Christian Social party, wield about equal power. However, the federal government doesn't depend on shaky coalitions but on cooperation--with national stability and harmony between the confederation and the cantons being the mutual cause. Controversial issues are generally submitted to a general referendum. In 1977, for example, Swiss voters rejected proposals to legalize abortion, limit the number of foreign workers, and establish rent control. They did approve a proposal to limit the number of referendums by increasing the number of signatures required to place an issue on the ballot.

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