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Glarner Landsgemeinde, May 2014
Swearing in at the Innerrhoder Landsgemeinde in Appenzell, April 2005

The Landsgemeinde is the constitutional gathering of residents who are able to vote, held on a certain day in the open air and with solemn ceremonies , at which votes are taken on business matters and authorities are elected.

At the cantonal level, it still exists in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden (2016: around 16,000 inhabitants, 11,565 of whom are entitled to vote) and Glarus (2016: 40,150 inhabitants, of which around 26,000 are entitled to vote).

There is a comparable institution with the district communities in the Appenzell Innerrhoder districts ( residents' communities ) and in the Schwyz district of the canton of Schwyz . The assemblies of the corporations function like regional parishes , for example the Oberallmeindgemeinde of the Oberallmeindkorporation Schwyz and the Talgemeinde of the Ursern corporation . The Landsgemeinde is then the “bigger sister” of the community assembly as it is known by the smaller and medium-sized communities, especially in German-speaking Switzerland.

This early form of direct democracy in Switzerland emerged from the late Middle Ages in the localities of Switzerland. It is similar to other early democratic decision-making forums such as the Thing or the Athenian People's Assembly , but has its origins in medieval communalism and the medieval court assemblies (“Landtag”).

Cantonal communes


The traditional "entrance ticket" to the ring of the Landsgemeinde in Appenzell : a sword as a "side gun"

There are still cantons in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus ; there they form the highest cantonal authority. The responsibilities differ or differ from canton to canton. In both Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus, decisions are made on constitutional changes, laws and major issues in the Landsgemeinde; Only in Appenzell Innerrhoden does the rural community elect the government, only in Glarus is it responsible for setting the tax rate.

In the two rural communities that still exist today, anyone with a right to vote can speak on a question; in the case of the former parish of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, however, no discussion was possible in the ring. In both rural communities, the open hand rule applies .

Appenzell Innerrhoden

In the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, the Landsgemeinde in Appenzell takes place on the last Sunday in April, unless this overlaps Easter Sunday, in which case the meeting is postponed to the first Sunday in May. The basis of the vote (agenda list, legal texts and voting message) is the “Landsgemeinde mandate”. Appenzell Innerrhoden is not only familiar with popular initiatives, but also with individual initiatives. Any voter can submit one in writing, and the Landsgemeinde then votes on it. Such individual initiatives have introduced, for example, the separation of powers and a financial referendum in Appenzell.

As a voting card, men in Appenzell Innerrhoden can show the so-called "side gun" in addition to the paper voting card. In the past it was actually a rifle, today a mostly inherited sword , optionally also a bayonet or saber .


The Glarner Landsgemeinde takes place on the first Sunday in May. The basis of the vote (agenda, legal texts and voting message) is the “memorial”. In addition to the popular initiative, the canton of Glarus also has the right to take individual initiatives, referred to here as a memorial motion. Any voter can submit one in writing, and the Landsgemeinde then votes on it. When voting or “multiplying” (this is the legal term for voting), the voting card is held up in Glarus.

In the Glarner Landsgemeinde, those entitled to vote are allowed to «advise, reduce, increase and vote». This means that you can request the floor about each individual business transaction, request a change, postpone or reject a submission. The right to amendment introduced women’s right to vote and suffrage at all levels in 1971. The original draft vote only contained rights at lower community levels (e.g. school community). In May 2006, the amending law also decided to merge the canton's 25 municipalities into just three. The original proposal had provided for ten parishes.


Origin and change

The Landsgemeinde - at cantonal, regional and communal level - has its origins in medieval communalism or the medieval state parliaments (court assemblies). From the 13th century onwards, the central Swiss provinces took over the former competence of the lordly bailiffs and the entire jurisdiction and replaced the bailiff with an ammann, which ultimately resulted in an assembly that not only pronounced justice, but also voted, administered and Right sat. Early designations include “Community of the People of the Valley” (Uri, from 1231) and “Landtag” (Schwyz, from 1294); up to the end of the Middle Ages the term «Landsgemeinde» prevailed.

The Landsgemeinde of the early modern period had little in common with today's Landsgemeinde: there was often unanimous unanimous consent, there was no separation of powers - it was an administrative, legislative and judicial organ in one - and there was no equality of citizens. It was much more a gathering of privileged representatives of the valleys and communities, integrated into clans with economic and family dependencies, and not immune to manipulation by the leading sexes or insurrections. The farmer did not take part by virtue of being a person, but because of his membership in a local collective, and his opinion he had to represent. In addition, large parts of the population were excluded from taking part, including all those sitting and sitting behind and all residents of the subject areas (such as the Swiss March).

With the French Revolution and the Helvetic Republic, it lost its omnipotence and, as far as it survived, was transformed in the course of the 19th century into a constitutionally integrated institution that was deprived of numerous powers. Its influence on the emergence of direct democracy in the cantons in the 19th century is nevertheless significant, if more as an ideological point of reference than as a model.

Former rural communities


Obwaldner Landsgemeinde 1987 on the Landenberg above Sarnen

After 1815 there was a rural municipality in eight Swiss cantons at the cantonal level - in addition to Glarus and Appenzell Innerrhoden, earlier also in Zug , Schwyz , Uri , Obwalden , Nidwalden and (first mentioned in 1403) Appenzell Ausserrhoden .

The Landsgemeinde was abolished

  • 1848 in Zug
  • 1848 in Schwyz
  • 1928 in Uri (through a Landsgemeinde vote)
  • 1996 in Nidwalden (through ballot box )
  • 1997 in Appenzell Ausserrhoden (by ballot)
  • 1998 in Obwalden (by ballot box)

Abolition of the Landsgemeinde in Appenzell Ausserrhoden

The Landsgemeinde in Appenzell Ausserrhoden was abolished on September 28, 1997 in an urn vote previously resolved by the Landsgemeinde (with 54.0 percent yes votes and 61 percent participation). At the Landsgemeinde 1993, this had clearly spoken out in favor of retaining it.

Landsgemeinde in Hundwil on April 24, 1949

The abolition was preceded by a decade-long dispute over the introduction of cantonal women's suffrage. The male Swiss electorate had already approved the introduction of women's suffrage at the federal level in 1971, but the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, like all of Eastern Switzerland , rejected this by a majority (no: 60.1 percent; at the federal level only 34.3 percent). The very narrow acceptance of the corresponding constitutional amendment to the Landsgemeinde in 1989 was controversial. If a clear decision by «Mehren» (visual determination of the majority from the podium) was not possible, the constitution stipulated that the final decision could be made by the Landammann. After repeated requests, the Landammann declared the proposal to be accepted. The Landammann and the government justified their behavior with - in their opinion - a narrow but clear majority of votes, while critics explain this as a deliberate disregard for the will of the people and "forcing" a decision in the interests of the government council. This incident clearly demonstrated the susceptibility of decision-making in the rural community. As a result, many supporters of the original form withdrew and no longer took part in the country church.

A popular initiative for the “reintroduction of the rural community in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden” was rejected on June 13, 2010 in a ballot with 70.3 percent no votes.

Regional and local communes in the cantons

Appenzell Innerrhoden

In the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden , in the districts (municipalities) of the Inner Land, the district municipalities take place on the Sunday after the cantonal municipality , at which the respective district captain (municipality president), the other members of the district council (municipality council) and one member each of the district court and all two take place Years, the members of the Grand Council due to the district are elected. The Outer Land ( Oberegg ), however, knows the ballot box .


In the canton of Graubünden , most of the 39 districts that existed until 2016 had a rural community, called Bsatzig in Walser German or cumin, mastralia or tschentada in Romansh . When the Grisons Grand Council was elected every two years, the regional parishes also took place every two years on the first Sunday in May.

The tasks of the regional parishes were the election of the district representative (s) in the cantonal parliament (Grand Council), the election of his or her deputy and the election of the governor (district president) and his governor (deputy). Until the new Graubünden court organization came into force in 2001, this also included the election of the district court and its chairman as well as the mediator (justice of the peace).

In the past few years and decades, one after the other Landsgemeinde was abolished and the secret ballot box was introduced; In 2009, for example, this affected Bsatzig in Schanfigg . According to a survey by the Graubünden registry office, six districts still had a rural community at the beginning of 2014: Churwalden , Küblis , Luzein , Ruis , Safien and Schams . Since the districts were abolished when the territorial reform came into force in 2016, the last Grisons parishes took place in May 2014.

Historically, the Bündner Landsgemeinden go back to the assemblies in the jurisdictions of the Free State of the Three Leagues .


The district of Schwyz is the only district in the canton of Schwyz that still has a parish. It makes the elections of the district mayor, the district council, the land clerk and the district judge and decides on the bill and budget. Matters relating to the judiciary, the management of the lower secondary level as well as the water and road system are discussed in the Landsgemeinde, but decided in secret ballot at the ballot box since 1984.

The community meetings

The tradition of the people's assembly at the communal level, where it is known as the community assembly, is still widespread in German-speaking Switzerland . Occasionally, solemn community meetings are referred to as "Landsgemeinden", B. in Ennetbaden and Bergdietikon .

Advantages and disadvantages of the Landsgemeinde

The closeness to the citizens, the immediacy of the consultations and the establishment of identity are seen as positive aspects of the rural community. Their function as a «catalyst for the democratic idea» and as an «anchorage aid for direct democratic developments» are also recognized.

From a constitutional point of view, it is criticized that the Landsgemeinde takes place firstly in a geographically centralized and temporally concentrated manner, with the result that on the one hand the voter participation is “extraordinarily” low and, on the other hand, “disabled and disabled people” cannot participate. Second, public voting in the meeting is incompatible with voting secrecy, and thirdly, the voting result is determined by simple estimation and not by exact counting.

According to constitutional lawyer Andreas Auer, “towards the end of the 20th century the Landsgemeinde became a curiosity at the cantonal level, which today still attracts visitors from home and abroad, but no longer meets the contemporary demands of political equality and freedom of voting able ». In 1993, Switzerland had to make a reservation to Art. 25b of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights . In 1978 and 1995, the Federal Supreme Court protected this type of decision-making (BGE 104 IA 428 and BGE 121 I 138), namely because its system-related inadequacies were fundamentally eliminated by its advantages, “but above all because of unnamed, but known and not unjustified functional concerns against a high judge's ban on a “special conventional form of direct democratic participation by voters (BGE 121 I 138, 143)” and the related restriction of the cantonal constitutional autonomy ”.


The painting Die Landsgemeinde , which adorns the south wall of the Council of States chamber in the Bundeshaus in Bern , shows a rural community in the 18th century. The painters Albert Welti and Wilhelm Balmer depicted the Landsgemeindeplatz in Stans , but with the landscape around Sarnen .



  • Andreas Auer : Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, ISBN 978-3-7272-3217-6 .
  • Gian Caduff: The Bündner Landsgemeinde. In: Graubünden. Edited by Walter Schmid. Bern 1942, pp. 35–40 (also PDF download , from
  • Felix Helg: The Swiss rural communities. Its constitutional structure in the cantons of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Glarus, Nidwalden and Obwalden. Legal dissertation, Zurich 2007.
  • Silvano Möckli : The Swiss rural community democracies . Paul Haupt, Bern 1987 (also PDF download ).
  • René Pahud de Mortanges: Swiss legal history. A floor plan. 2nd, supplemented and improved edition. Dike, Zurich / St. Gallen 2017, ISBN 978-3-03751-838-0 .
  • Hans-Peter Schaub: Landsgemeinde or urn - which is more democratic? Urn and assembly democracy in Switzerland. Nomos, Baden-Baden 2016.
  • Schweizerisches Idiotikon , Volume IV, Column 304, Article Lands-Ge-mein (1901; digitized ) and Volume VII, Column 1592, Article Be-satzing, Bed.1b (zu Graubünden Sp. 1593 Mitte) (1913; digitized ) and column 1596, Article Lands-Be-satzing (1913; digitized version ) .
  • Hans Stadler: Landsgemeinde. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .

Web links

Commons : Landsgemeinde  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Appenzell (AI, AR)

Glarus (GL)

Churwalden / Graubünden (GR)

Individual evidence

  1. Lowest voter turnout in Appenzell Innerrhoden. Almost half of those entitled to vote exercised their right to vote. But there are strong fluctuations between the cantons. October 19, 2015, accessed August 26, 2018 .
  2. Hans-Peter Schaub, Lukas Leuzinger: The voting participation in the Glarner Landsgemeinde . In: LeGes . tape 29 , no. 1 , 2018 ( ).
  3. ^ A b Andreas Auer: Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, p. 154.
  4. Constitution for the Federal State of Appenzell I. Rh. Of the 24th winter month 1872, Art. 19 (accessed on May 11, 2019).
  5. Landsgemeinde, website of the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden (accessed on December 22, 2019).
  6. ^ Symbolic rural community. In: St. Galler Tagblatt . April 30, 2011.
  7. ^ Constitution of the Canton of Glarus of May 1, 1988, Art. 63 (accessed on May 11, 2019).
  8. ^ A b Hans Stadler: Landsgemeinde. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  9. ^ René Pahud de Mortanges: Swiss legal history. A floor plan. 2nd, supplemented and improved edition. Dike, Zurich / St. Gallen 2017, p. 72 f.
  10. ^ René Pahud de Mortanges: Swiss legal history. A floor plan. 2nd, supplemented and improved edition. Dike, Zurich / St. Gallen 2017, p. 72.
  11. ^ Andreas Auer: Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, p. 383, based on Thomas Maissen : History of Switzerland. Baden 2010, p. 46 f. and Alfred Kölz : Modern Swiss Constitutional History. Its basic lines in the Confederation and cantons since 1848. Bern 1992, pp. 10–12.
  12. ^ A b René Pahud de Mortanges: Swiss legal history. A floor plan. 2nd, supplemented and improved edition. Dike, Zurich / St. Gallen 2017, p. 74.
  13. ^ Andreas Auer: Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, p. 383.
  14. ^ Andreas Auer: Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, p. 382.
  15. Template No. 224 Results in the Cantons
  16. ^ Constitution for the Federal State of Appenzell I. Rh. From the 24th winter month 1872, Art. 33 (accessed on May 11, 2019).
  17. Information from the Graubünden Office for Municipalities from March 18, 2014.
  18. Information from the State Chancellery of the Canton of Schwyz from November 4, 2013.
  19. Martin Rupf: Large crowd at the Jubilee Landsgemeinde in the open air - On the occasion of the celebrations of 200 years of the Ennetbaden community, the community meeting on Postplatz was organized like a rural community. In: Badener Tagblatt . June 7, 2019.
  20. Because of the heat - the community assembly quickly becomes a rural community. In: Limmattaler Zeitung . June 27, 2019.
  21. ^ A b c Andreas Auer: Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, p. 409.
  22. ^ A b Andreas Auer: Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, p. 384.
  23. BGE 104 IA 428.
  24. BGE 121 I 138.
  25. ^ Andreas Auer: Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli, Bern 2016, p. 409 f.