Mixed system: Proportional representation. Single majority system for 5 single-member constituencies (two cantons, three half-cantons).

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1 Switzerland Basic facts 2007 Population GDP p.c. (US$) Human development rank 9 Age of democracy in years (Polity) 159 Type of democracy Electoral system Party system Parliamentary Mixed system: Proportional representation. Single majority system for 5 single-member constituencies (two cantons, three half-cantons). Multi-party system The development of the quality of democracy in Switzerland The overall quality of democracy The line chart illustrates the development of the aggregate quality of the Swiss democracy between 1990 and Overall, it is noteworthy that Switzerland exceeds the average standard during the whole period under study. Moreover, a small increase can be observed from 1990 to 1999 whereas the quality of Swiss democracy remained more or less stable thereafter. One phase of particular progress between 1998 and 1999 stands out, however. This is related to the total revision of the country s constitution in Further, though less marked, phases of progress are visible between 1990 and 1994 as well as between 2005 and The following sections will further explore the reasons for these trends. 1

2 Freedom As the line chart above shows, Switzerland performs exceptionally well with regard to the principle freedom. While it has always scored above the average degree of freedom across all countries in our sample, this is mainly due to the leap forward between 1998 and The change in the degree of freedom is also visible in all of its three underlying functions, but most clearly so in the function public sphere. In fact, this function pretty much parallels the development of its respective principle albeit on a lower level. After 1999, Switzerland even performed best with regard to the public sphere among all the 30 countries examined. As already mentioned, this can be explained by the total revision of the Swiss constitution in 1999, which then formally included constitutional provisions for the unrestricted freedom of association and assembly (the latter had previously not been constitutionally guaranteed at all) as well as the freedom of speech or opinion, although with some limitations. Furthermore, the new version of the federal constitution explicitly outlaws torture and guarantees public trials. These two factors have affected individual liberties and especially the rule of law in a similar but less pronounced fashion than the public sphere. Individual liberties have generally been secured very well across the whole period of study and seem to be a significant strength of the Swiss system. They constantly increased during the 1990s, with the exception of a temporary dip in 1993, which was caused by problems with the freedom of religion and reported torture of persons in police custody. After the constitutional reforms in 1999, the function individual liberties rose from already high values of around 92 to over 98 scale points. However, as of 2001, the function has been decreasing. This can again be attributed to mounting incidents of political terror and torture as well as restrictions in the freedom of religion. Examples to be cited here may be reports of degrading and violent treatment of citizens and especially foreigners in police custody or various cases of killings during police operations as well as the alleged discrimination of Muslim minorities and Scientology (HRR 2002; 2006). 2

3 The function rule of law also scores relatively high overall. It was boosted from 66 to 76 scale points in 1999 as a result of the legal introduction of public judicial proceedings but experienced a moderate decline afterwards, which was stabilised in 2002 and reversed as of The short-term downtrend seems to have been caused by set-backs in terms of judicial independence and the strength and impartiality of as well as the confidence in the legal system in general. Control The principle control does not exhibit much variation over the years and generally largely outnumbers the average degree of control across all countries. In accordance with their aggregate, neither do the three control functions vary much in the period under study. This is especially true for governmental capability, which continually shows a very high performance of around 85 scale points up to This can be explained by a low degree of public resistance against government policies and Switzerland s very stable government (the four major political parties are always included in the cabinet), which is mostly free from political pressures by military and religious forces as well. However, especially this latter aspect is responsible for the slight decline in governmental capability in the later years under study. Hence, the religious lobby is better able to influence the government. Furthermore, the dismissal of Christoph Blocher from the Federal Council in 2007 caused some turmoil in the governing coalition. Although Blocher was replaced by a member of his own party, this new minister was later expelled from the party for accepting the turnover, along with her party comrade. Thus, a major cabinet change took place, which can be interpreted as a destabilisation of the government. The function competition scores also high until 1998 but enters a moderate and continuing downtrend afterwards. One the one hand, declining levels of electoral competitiveness are to blame for this situation. Compared to the previous polls, the 1999 and 2007 elections resulted in larger shares of votes and 3

4 seats for single parties, which is due to the victories of the Swiss People s Party (SVP) in both elections. On the other hand, however, the shrinking openness of elections is mainly responsible for the decreasing electoral competition. More specifically, while 13 parties were running for office in the 1995 elections (the maximum in the country sample of the Democracy Barometer), this number dropped to 8 in With the entry of the Green-Liberal Party onto the national political stage in the 2007 elections, this number is on the rise again. The function mutual constraints shows, initially, shows similar values to the competition function. The comparatively low, although above average, values can be attributed to a lack of effective instruments of reciprocal control between the legislative and executive powers, on the one hand (such as veto or supersession rights), and the absence of a judicial institution authorised to review the constitutionality of legislative and governmental acts, on the other hand; a role usually performed by constitutional courts in other countries. The temporary slight increase between 1992 and 1995, which is also visible in the overall principle control, is caused by the relative success of several smaller non-governing parties, most notably the Freedom Party, at the expense of two coalition members in the 1991 elections. This led to a better balance between government and opposition in parliament, though one cannot really speak of an opposition in the Swiss case anyway. In 1995, however, some of these smaller parties and especially the Greens lost seats to the governing Social Democrats and SVP. Equality Looking at the line chart above, it becomes obvious that the principle equality could to some extent be considered the so-called weakest link of the Swiss democracy. Compared to the other two principles, equality scores only slightly above the average of the 30 countries. Noteworthy progress, however, has been made between 1990 and 1994 as well as from 2005 to 2006, which has also promoted Switzer- 4

5 land s overall quality of democracy as seen in the first figure on page 1 above. During these phases, equality improved from 58 to 65 and from 62 to 70 scale points, respectively. The function representation exhibits the best performance of all the three equality functions and a visible increase between 1990 and This can mainly be attributed to a better representation of women in the Swiss parliament after the 1991 elections and Ruth Dreifuss being elected into the previously maleonly government in After 1993, representation has not experienced any major changes over time. One exception is the upward trend between 1998 and 1999, which for once has nothing to do with the revision of the constitution. Instead, the 1999 elections produced a higher proportionality of votes and parliamentary seats and a better translation of voter preferences into the legislative process. More importantly, the election of Ruth Metzler into the Federal Council enhanced the inclusion of women into the government in For the first time in Swiss history two of the seven seats in the Federal Council were occupied by women. However, this novelty did not last very long. Four years later, Ruth Metzler was replaced by a man. This is the reason for the slight decline in representation as of 2003, which was, however, reversed with the election of Doris Leuthard in Despite some fluctuations, the function participation was more or less stable up to From then on, the scores for participation seem to have constantly been dropping in Switzerland. Between 2000 and 2007 participation fell from a level of 65 to 56 scale points. This can be explained by an increasingly unequal degree of political turnout in elections across different age groups as well as across genders. In fact, as of 2002 (as well as from 1990 to 1998), Switzerland has had the worst practice in this respect, i.e. the gaps in participation between the demographic strata were never as high in any of the other countries studied. This selectiveness of political participation in Switzerland is partially related to the generally low levels of turnout in elections and popular votes. Moreover, the alternative forms of political participation have generally been practiced less often. The function transparency, despite improvements in 1994, did not show a very high degree of fulfilment up to While the progress made between 1993 and 1994 seems to have been caused by more transparent government communication and, maybe coinciding, less political pressure exerted on the media, no unidirectional trend in transparency can be distinguished thereafter. The respective ups and downs are reflected in the overarching principle s performance as well, and they are rooted in variations in the degree of reported corruption as well as, again, the political control over the media and transparent government communication. The sudden growth of transparency between 2001 and 2002 is a consequence of reduced legal restrictions of the media s operation (Freedom House (FH_FP 2002) cites the legislative efforts to enhance competition in the broadcasting sector as well as an incident of denied access to the country for an Al-Jazeera journalist in 2001). Maybe correspondingly, a higher willingness of transparent communication by government officials is indicated in the data. The main deficits of 5

6 transparency in the Swiss case are the absence of legal provisions for the disclosure of political parties income and expenditures as well as the lack of any freedom of information legislation until well into the 21 st century. As for the latter, however, Switzerland implemented a new legal framework in 2006, which now allows citizens to get access to official documents. This reform is responsible for the sudden leap forward in this function s graph, and it is also the cause of the second phase of progress in Switzerland s aggregate democratic quality identified above. The democracy profile of Switzerland Legend: (Principles and Functions) Principle: Freedom: RL (Rule of Law), IL (Individual Liberties), PS (Public Sphere). Control: GC (Governmental Capability), MC (Mutual Constraints), CO (Competition). Equality: TR (Transparency), PAR (Participation), REP (Representation). The spider charts illustrate the discussed strengths and weaknesses of the Swiss democracy as well as their development over time in a convenient fashion. Overall, it is obvious that Switzerland excelled with regard to freedom and displays the largest shortcomings when it comes to equality. Thus, it is fair to say that the Swiss democracy is more libertarian then egalitarian. At least in the second half of the period of analysis, all of the three freedom functions scored above average. Progress over time has been made in terms of individual liberties and especially the public sphere, which, as outlined above, is mainly due to the inclusion of the respective basic rights into the federal constitution in By contrast, in 1990 and 2000 the transparency function performed worse in Switzerland than in most of the other countries studied in the Democracy Barometer. While representation and especially transparency have improved remarkably over time, the score of participation has actually been decreasing since

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