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The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member state of the federal state of Switzerlandmarker. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders, army and currency from the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848. The most recently created canton is the Canton of Juramarker, which separated from the Canton of Bernmarker in 1979.

History

In the 16th century, the Old Swiss Confederacy was composed of thirteen sovereign cantons, and there were two different kinds: six land (or forest) cantons and seven city (or urban) cantons. Though they were technically part of the Holy Roman Empire, they had become de facto independent when the Swiss defeatedmarker Emperor Maximillian in 1499. The six forest cantons were democratic republics, whereas the seven urban cantons were oligarchic republics controlled by noble families.

Constitution

Each canton has its own constitution, legislature, government and courts. Most of the cantons' legislatures are unicameral parliaments, their size varying between fifty-eight and two hundred seats. A few legislatures are general assemblies known as Landsgemeinden. The cantonal governments consist of either five or seven members, depending on the canton. For the names of the institutions, see List of legislative and executive councils of the Cantons of Switzerland.

The Swiss Federal Constitution declares the cantons to be sovereign to the extent their sovereignty is not limited by federal law. The cantons also retain all powers and competencies not delegated to the Confederation by the Constitution. Most significantly, the cantons are responsible for healthcare, welfare, law enforcement and public education; they also retain the power of taxation. The cantonal constitutions determine the degree of autonomy accorded to the municipalities, which varies but almost always includes the power to levy taxes and pass municipal laws. The sizes of the cantons vary from 37 km² to 7,105 km²; the populations vary from 15,471 to 1,244,400.

Direct democracy

As on the federal level, all cantons provide for direct democracy. Citizens may demand a popular vote to amend the cantonal constitution or laws, or to veto laws or spending bills passed by the parliament. General popular assemblies (Landsgemeinde) are now limited to the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhodenmarker and Glarusmarker. In all other cantons democratic rights are exercised by secret ballot.

List

The cantons are listed in the order given in the federal constitution.

Flag Abbr Canton Since Capital Population Area Density № munic. Official languages
ZH Zürichmarker 1351 Zürichmarker 1,307,567 1,729 701 171 German
BE Bernmarker 1353 Bernmarker 962,982 5,959 158 392 German, French
LU Luzernmarker (Lucerne) 1332 Lucernemarker 363,475 1,493 233 88 German
UR Urimarker 1291 Altdorfmarker 34,989 1,077 33 20 German
SZ Schwyzmarker 1291 Schwyzmarker 141,024 908 143 30 German
OW Obwaldenmarker (Obwald) 1291 Sarnenmarker 33,997 491 66 7 German
NW Nidwaldenmarker (Nidwald) 1291 Stansmarker 40,287 276 138 11 German
GL Glarusmarker 1352 Glarusmarker 38,237 685 51 25 German
ZG Zugmarker 1352 Zugmarker 109,141 239 416 11 German
FR Fribourgmarker 1481 Fribourgmarker 263,241 1,671 141 168 French, German
SO Solothurnmarker 1481 Solothurnmarker 250,240 791 308 125 German
BS Basel-Stadtmarker (Basel-City) 1501 (part of Basel until 1833) Baselmarker 185,227 37 5,072 3 German
BL Basel-Landschaftmarker (Basel-Country) 1501 (part of Basel until 1833) Liestalmarker 269,145 518 502 86 German
SH Schaffhausenmarker 1501 Schaffhausenmarker 74,527 298 246 27 German
AR Appenzell Ausserrhodenmarker (Outer Rhodes) 1513 (part of Appenzell until 1597) Herisaumarker / Trogenmarker 52,654 243 220 20 German
AI Appenzell Innerrhodenmarker (Inner Rhodes) 1513 (part of Appenzell until 1597) Appenzellmarker 15,471 173 87 6 German
SG St. Gallenmarker (St. Gall) 1803 St. Gallenmarker 465,937 2,026 222 86 German
GR Graubündenmarker (Grisons) 1803 Churmarker 188,762 7,105 26 190 German, Romansh, Italian
AG Aargaumarker (Argovia) 1803 Aaraumarker 581,562 1,404 388 229 German
TG Thurgaumarker (Thurgovia) 1803 Frauenfeldmarker / Weinfeldenmarker 238,316 991 229 80 German
TI Ticinomarker 1803 Bellinzonamarker 328,580 2,812 110 176 Italian
VD Vaudmarker 1803 Lausannemarker 672,039 3,212 188 375 French
VS Valaismarker 1815 Sionmarker 298,580 5,224 53 143 French, German
NE Neuchâtelmarker 1815 Neuchâtelmarker 169,782 803 206 53 French
GE Genevamarker 1815 Genevamarker 438,177 282 1,442 45 French
JU Juramarker 1979 (previously part of Bern) Delémontmarker 69,555 838 82 64 French
CH Switzerland   Bernmarker 7,593,494 41,285 174 2,631 German, French, Italian, Romansh


The two-letter abbreviations for Swiss cantons are widely used, e.g. on car license plates and in the ISO 3166-2 codes of Switzerland (with the prefix "CH-", i.e. CH-SZ for the canton of Schwyz).

Half-cantons

Six of the 26 cantons are traditionally, but no longer officially, called "half-cantons" ( , ), reflecting a history of mutual association or partition.

The half-cantons are identified in the first article of the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1999 by being joined to their other "half" with the conjunction "and":

The 1999 constitutional revision retained this distinction, on the request of the six cantonal governments, as a way to mark the historic association of the half-cantons to each other. In contrast, the first article of the 1848 and 1874 constitutions constituted the Confederation as the union of "twenty-two sovereign cantons", referring to the half-cantons as "Unterwalden (above and beneath the woods)", "Basel (city and country)" and "Appenzell (both Rhoden)". While the older constitutions referred to these states as "half-cantons", a term that remains in popular use, the 1999 revision and official terminology since then use the appellation "cantons with half a cantonal vote".

With their mutual association a purely historical matter, the half-cantons are since 1848 equal to the other cantons in all but two respects:
  • They elect only one member of the Council of States instead of two (Cst. art. 150 par. 2).
  • In popular referendums about constitutional amendments, which require for adoption a national popular majority as well as the assent of a majority of the cantons (Ständemehr / majorité des cantons), the result of the half-cantons' popular vote counts only one half of that of the other cantons (Cst. arts. 140, 142). This means that for purposes of a constitutional referendum, at least twelve out of a total of twenty-three cantonal popular votes must support the amendment.


Caricature of the division of Basel, 1833
The reasons for the association between the three pairs of half-cantons are varied:

  • Unterwalden never consisted of a single unified jurisdiction. Originally, Obwalden, Nidwalden, and the Abbey of Engelbergmarker formed distinct communities. The collective term Unterwalden remains in use, however, for the area that partook in the creation of the original Swiss confederation in 1291 with Urimarker and Schwyzmarker. The Federal Charter of 1291 called for representatives from each of the three "areas".




  • The canton of Baselmarker divided itself as a consequence of a revolt of the Basel countryside in 1833, in order to promote equality among its citizenry, combating claims between rural and city residents over preferential status: Basel-Landschaftmarker and Basel-Stadtmarker.


Names in other languages



Abbr English French Italian German Romansh
AG Aargaumarker (rare: Argovia) Argovie Argovia Argovia
AI Appenzell Innerrhodenmarker (Appenzell Inner-Rhodes) Appenzell Rhodes-Intérieures Appenzello Interno Appenzell dadens
AR Appenzell Ausserrhodenmarker (Appenzell Outer-Rhodes) Appenzell Rhodes-Extérieures Appenzello Esterno Appenzell dador
BS Basel-Citymarker or Basle-City Bâle-Ville Basilea-Città Basilea-Citad
BL Basel-Countrymarker, Basle-Country, or Basel-Land Bâle-Campagne Basilea-Campagna Basilea-Champagna
BE Bernmarker Berne Berna Berna
FR Fribourgmarker Fribourg Friborgo Friburg
GE Genevamarker Genève Ginevra Genevra
GL Glarusmarker Glaris Glarona Glaruna
GR Graubündenmarker (Grisons) Grisons Grigioni Grischun
JU Juramarker Jura Giura Giura
LU Lucernemarker Lucerne Lucerna Lucerna
NE Neuchâtelmarker Neuchâtel Neuchâtel Neuchâtel
NW Nidwaldenmarker Nidwald Nidvaldo Sutsilvania
OW Obwaldenmarker Obwald Obvaldo Sursilvania
SH Schaffhausenmarker (Schaffhouse) Schaffhouse Sciaffusa Schaffusa
SZ Schwyzmarker Schwyz (or Schwytz) Svitto Sviz
SO Solothurnmarker Soleure Soletta Soloturn
SG St. Gallenmarker (St. Gall) Saint-Gall San Gallo Son Gagl
TG Thurgaumarker (Thurgovia) Thurgovie Turgovia Turgovia
TI Ticinomarker Tessin Ticino Tessin
UR Urimarker Uri Uri Uri
VS Valaismarker Valais Vallese Vallais
VD Vaudmarker Vaud Vaud Vad
ZG Zugmarker Zoug Zugo Zug
ZH Zurichmarker Zurich Zurigo Turitg


See also



Notes

  1. This is the order generally used in Swiss official documents. At the head of the list are the three city cantons that were considered preeminent in the Old Swiss Confederacy; the other cantons are listed in order of accession to the Confederation. This traditional order of precedence among the cantons has no practical relevance in the modern federal state, in which the cantons are equal to one another, although it still determines formal precedence among the cantons' officials (see Swiss order of precedence).
  2. km²
  3. Per km², based on 2000 population
  4. As of 31 December 2007,
  5. Seat of government and parliament is Herisaumarker, the seat of the judicial authorities is Trogenmarker
  6. Seat of parliament half-yearly alternates between Frauenfeldmarker and Weinfeldenmarker


References

  • . Cited as Ehrenzeller.
  • Cited as Häfelin.


  1. Swiss Government website with links to each cantonal government, accessed 11 November 2008
  2. Felix Hafner / Rainer J. Schweizer in Ehrenzeller, Art. 1 N 2; Häfelin, N 966.
  3. Twenty-three after the creation of the Canton of Jura in 1978.
  4. Bundesverfassung der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft vom 29. Mai 1874, Bundesverfassung der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft vom 12. September 1848 ; author's translation.
  5. Felix Hafner / Rainer J. Schweizer in Ehrenzeller, Art. 1 N 10; Häfelin, N 963
  6. Häfelin, N 963, 967
  7. Häfelin, N 950
  8. Pacte fédéral du 1er août 1291] sur Admin.ch "vallée inférieure d'Unterwald" signifie Nidwald.
  9. Pacte fédéral du 1er août 1291 sur Cliotexte
  10. Réforme catholique, Contre-Réforme et scission Article du dictionnaire historique de la Suisse
  11. De la République helvétique à la division du canton (1798-1833) Article du dictionnaire historique de la Suisse


External links

  • GeoPuzzle Assemble cantons on a Swiss map
  • Badac Database on Swiss cantons and cities (French/German)



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