After reading this article you will learn about the nature of the division of powers in Switzerland.
(i) Not a very Rigid and Fully Clear Division of Powers:
The above account of the division of powers between the Federation and the Cantons reveals that the division has been neither rigid nor fully clear.
(ii) Execution of Federal Laws by the Cantons:
In Switzerland, the federal laws relating to the federal subjects are executed and administered by the Cantonal governments.
Article 46 states that the Cantons shall implement Federal Laws in conformity with the Constitution and Statutes. It is also true of the military affairs and the main body of civil and criminal laws. The decisions of the Federal Court are executed by the Cantonal bureaucracies.
The Cantons as such execute most of the federal laws. The Federation has a limited bureaucracy with handles the administration of laws relating to only a few subjects such as customs, coinage, posts, telegraph and telephones.
(iii) Cantonal Autonomy:
The Swiss Constitution accepts the concept of Cantonal autonomy. All the Cantons have been accepted as equal members of the Swiss Federation.
Article 47 declares:
“The Federation shall respect the autonomy of Cantons.” The Cantons, as the original custodians of all powers, now exercise all powers which have not been delegated to the Federation.
In other words, the Swiss Cantons are sovereign except to the extent to which their sovereignty stands limited by the authority of the Federation.
Equal representation to the Cantons in the Senate, due role to the Cantons in the amendment process, and the system of allowing the Cantons to have their constitutions and limited armies, are some examples which highlight the recognized legal personality and autonomy of each Swiss Canton.
(iv) Some Limitations on the Swiss Cantons:
The following are the main limitations on the powers of the Cantons:
(1) No Canton can secede from the Swiss federation.
(2) No Cantonal constitution can, in any way, be inconsistent with the Federal Constitution.
(3) The constitution of a Canton has to be a republican/democratic or representative constitution.
(4) The Cantons cannot, individually or collectively, make any political treaty or alliance with any foreign country.
(5) The Federal Court has the right to exercise the power of judicial review over Cantonal laws with a view to determine whether or not these are in conformity with the Federal Constitution and laws.
(6) No Canton can restrict the free passage of armed forces through its territory.
(7) The Federation guarantees the constitutions of the Cantons.
(8) For the upkeep of law, order and security, the Federal government can send troops to any Canton.
(9) Article 49 states: Federal law takes precedence over Cantonal law. The Federation shall ensure that the Cantons respect federal laws.
These limitations clearly highlight the senior role of the Swiss Federation vis-a-vis the Cantons.