Direct democracy in action

Direct democracy in action

Every year one date is marked well in advance on the calendar of the voting residents of Glarus: The “Landesgemeinde” cantonal assembly. The Glarus “Landesgemeinde” is when the voting residents of the Canton of Glarus assemble together outdoors and is the canton’s highest political body. It is responsible for cantonal constitutional and legislative processes, setting tax rates and making important decisions. Around 8000 voters participate in the assembly each year.

The “Landesgemeinde” has been held in the open air on the first Sunday in May since 1387; this year it will take place on May 3, 2015, starting at 9:30 AM. The voters assemble in a circle at “Zaunplatz” square (also known as “Landesgemeindeplatz” square) in the center of the canton’s capital, Glarus. The “Landammann” (cantonal president) opens and presides over the assembly and decides the majority by estimation for votes and referendums.

All the information that the voters need is in the “Memorial für die Landesgemeinde” (‘Journal for the “Landesgemeinde”‘). It contains the assembly agenda and a description of all the items with a detailed presentation and rationalization as well as the proposal of the cantonal parliament.

And how do voters become involved directly in the “Landesgemeinde”? They all have the right to “advise, criticize and recommend”. This means that they can take the floor regarding any item of business and request changes. It is also possible to postpone, reject or refuse motions. The Glarus “Landesgemeinde” is fundamentally different from normal ballot voting, in which voters are only given the choice of voting yes or no and have no influence on the content of the items proposed. The Glarus votes are taken with a show of hands, by the way, in which the voters hold their colored voting cards high in the air. The cantonal president decides which is the “greater majority”, and other members of the cantonal government are involved in the decision for trickier cases. If the majority is not clearly visible, the cantonal president tends to decide against the government and parliament, and his/her decision may not be challenged.

Foreign visitors in particular are impressed by the direct democracy displayed in the political decisions. The fact that the people set their own tax rates every year is no less extraordinary. Local business owners who may not have voting rights because they reside outside of the canton are also encouraged to attend the “Landesgemeinde” as guests, since it is very difficult to get larger projects off the ground without support from the local population.

So, if you are in the Greater Zurich Area at the beginning of May, don’t miss this remarkable event – Glarus is less than an hour from Zurich by car or train, after all.


About the author

Christian Zehnder is head of Economic Promotion for the Canton of Glarus. The Economic Promotion Office for the Canton of Glarus is your expert partner in the event that you are preparing to make a location or investment decision. The basic information to help you make sound decisions is readily available thanks to the efficient and transparent organization. You can count on absolute discretion and rapid processing, and the services are provided free of charge.

 

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