Head, Department of Political Science, Lucknow Christian Degree College, Lucknow.
Constitution Of Switzerland Continued.....
Constitution of Switzerland
MAIN HIGHLIGHTS OF THE CONSTITUTION OF SWITZERLAND
MAIN HIGHLIGHTS OF THE CONSTITUTION OF SWITZERLAND PART - III
10. Amalgamation of Parliamentary and Presidential Forms:
The Swiss system of government is a unique system which encompasses the features of parliamentary as well as presidential systems. There is a close relationship between the Swiss Federal Parliament and the Swiss Executive. The members of the Executive (Federal Government) participate in the deliberations of the legislature.
The members of Federal Government (Ministers of Federal Government) are responsible before the Federal Parliament for their work and activities. These two are parliamentary features. The Swiss Executive - the Federal Government enjoys a fixed tenure and it cannot be voted out of power by the Federal Parliament.
It is constituted by all the political parties and it is a Plural Executive. It cannot dissolve the Federal Parliament. These are indeed presidential features. As such, the Swiss system is parliamentary as well as presidential in its organisation and working.
11. Plural/Collegial Executive:
A unique feature of the Swiss constitution is that is provides for a Collegial/Plural Executive. All the executive powers of the federation are exercised by a Seven - Member Federal Government. All the seven members collectively exercise power. Article 177(1) declares “The Federal Government shall take it decisions as a collective body.”
Every year one of its seven members of the collegium is elected as the President and another as the Vice-president.
Next year the Vice-president becomes the President and a new member is elected as the Vice-president. This process continues and each member gets a chance to be the President and Vice-president. The President performs all the functions of the head of the state for one year.
The members of the Federal Government do not resign whenever the Federal Parliament rejects any measure or policy sponsored by it. There is no such thing as collective responsibility before the Federal Parliament. Thus, the Federal Government of Switzerland is a Unique Plural Executive.
12. Bicameral Legislature:
Swiss Federal Parliaments is a bicameral body. Its two houses are:
Ø The House of Representatives and
Ø The Senate.
The former is the lower, popular, national house which represents the people of Switzerland and the latter is the upper house which represents the Cantons and their sovereign equality. Each full Canton has two and each half Canton has one seat in the Senate.
The House of Representatives has tenure of 4 years whereas the tenures of the members of the Senate depend upon the Cantons which they represent. In fact the members of the upper house are not elected simultaneously.
The Federal Parliament enjoys legislative, executive, financial and judicial powers which are jointly exercised by both the Houses. Both the Houses have equal powers in all spheres. In the words of C.F. Strong, “The Swiss legislature like the Swiss executive, is unique. It is the only legislature in the world, the powers of whose upper house are in no way different from those of the lower house.”
13. Lack of Independent and Powerful Judiciary:
The Swiss Federal Court is the only federal court and in a way, it has the status of being the Supreme Court of Switzerland. However, it enjoys a secondary position in the constitutional system. The judges of the Federal Court are elected by the Federal Parliament for a period of six years, though the convention of re-electing the judges ensures a long tenure for the Judges.
The Judges are responsible before the Federal Parliament. The Federal Court has been given the responsibility to apply laws voted by the Federal Parliament. It has no power to reject federal laws. It submits an annual report of its working to the Federal Parliament. Thus, Swiss judiciary occupies a back seat in the constitutional system.
14. No Judicial Review over Federal Laws:
The Swiss Federal Court has been given the power of judicial review only in respect of the laws made by the Cantonal legislatures. The laws passed by the Federal Parliament are not subject to its power of judicial review. The provision for referendum as the means of popular review over the laws made by the Federal Parliament has been the main reason behind the denial of this power to the Federal Court.
However, for protecting the sanctity of the Federal Constitution, it has been given the power to review the constitutions and laws of the Cantons and declare all such measures as Ultra vires, which it finds to be in conflict with the Swiss Constitution.
In other words, the Swiss Federal Court has no power to determine the constitutional validity of federal laws. The right to interpret the Swiss constitution belongs to the Federal Parliament.
15. Conventions of the Swiss Constitution:
The history of the evolution of the Swiss constitutional system since 1848 has produced several constitutional conventions which have been regulating the behaviour of almost all the political institutions of Switzerland. In the Federal Government, when the President completes his term of one year, the Vice-president becomes the President and a new Vice-president is elected. This practice is repeated every year.
The Vice-chairmen of the two Houses of the Federal Parliament become chairman in the next year. Constitutionally, both the House of Representatives and the Senate have equal powers, but by a convention, the former exercises more powers than the latter. Each judge of the Federal Court has a tenure of six years but by a convention, he is repeatedly elected unopposed.
The members of the Federal Government are also repeatedly elected so long as they continue to serve well. By another convention, the Cantons speaking the three main languages are always given a seat each in the Federal Government. Further, the Cantons of Berne, Geneva and Vaud are always given a berth in the Federal Government.
16. Dual Citizenship:
The system of double citizenship prevails in Switzerland. The Constitution states that every citizen of a Canton shall be a citizen of Switzerland. This entitles a person to enjoy the citizenship of his Canton as well as that of the Swiss Federation.
TO BE CONTINUED...............