Civil rights

What are the most important civil rights?

Swiss citizens have a whole range of opportunities to actively shape policy. This concerns everyone who is 18 and has reached the age of majority, and who is a Swiss citizen. There follows a brief explanation of the most important civil rights.


  • Suffrage. Every four years the citizens of Switzerland choose who will represent them in parliament. They also decide the cantonal and municipal executives. The provincial government, on the other hand, is not elected by the people, but by the national parliament.
  • Right to vote. Elections take place allowing voters to make decisions several times a year on factual issues or laws at local, cantonal and Federal level. Smaller municipalities also have municipal meetings. The citizens come together locally to discuss local issues and decide on them.
  • Initiative and referendum rights. Citizens have the opportunity to demand changes in the Federal Constitution by launching a popular initiative. They can also launch a referendum, forcing the Parliament’s resolutions to be subsequently put to the people for a final decision. A certain number of eligible voters is required for an initiative or a referendum to be possible. The voters have to demand the initiative or referendum in writing, in a signed petition, within a specified deadline. The people then have the final word in the vote.
  • Right of petition. This allows every person, including immigrants, to submit requests, suggestions and complaints to the authorities in writing. The authorities are not obliged to do act on the basis of a petition, but they must at least acknowledge the concerns expressed in the petition.