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What is a law?

Laws (acts of parliament) set out the rules that people have to follow in a state. Their purpose is to organise the way people live in society. Every state has its own laws and they are made by the state’s legislature, parliament.

Lots of laws: which one applies?

The legislation in force in any country can take various forms (conventions, the constitution, laws (acts of parliament), secondary legislation (ordinances )).  These legislative texts do not all have the same value: some have a superior status and take precedence over others. For example, in Switzerland, laws take precedence over ordinances.

Laws in Switzerland

Switzerland is a federalist state; as a consequence, it has federal, cantonal and communal laws.
In addition, international law that has been ratified by Switzerland is also applicable. (Renvoi sur le texte droit international ?)

Federal acts

Federal acts are enacted by the Federal Parliament. The primary task of any parliament is to legislate (approve, reject, amend or repeal laws).

Cantonal legislation

Cantonal acts are issued by the cantonal parliaments. The primary task of the cantonal parliaments is also to legislate (approve, reject, amend or repeal laws).

  • You will find all the federal and cantonal legislation on LexFind.ch. The LexFind portal is financed by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Chancellors.

Communal legislation

Not every commune has the same powers or degree of autonomy. The extent to which a commune can enact its own legislation is determined by the relevant cantonal constitution. Once again, it is the communal legislature that enacts the laws in the commune. The larger communes usually have their own parliament, while in smaller communes it is normally the communal assembly that approves new laws.

Who can call for a new law to be enacted at federal level?

Federal legislation is enacted by the Federal Assembly, i.e. the Parliament (legislature).
Any person or body that wants a new law to be enacted or an existing law to be changed, whether they are citizens (i.e. with the right to vote at federal level), interest groups, members of parliament, cantons or the Federal Council, can submit their request to the federal parliament.

However, it is parliament that ultimately decides whether a law should be amended and how it should be amended.