From the Reformation to the end of the 19th century
A profound division between the cantons was created with the adhesion of a group of them to the Reform, introduced by U. Zwingli. Starting from Zurich, the reform spread to Bern, Basel and partly also to Schaffhausen, Appenzell, Glarus, Grisons and other lands of allies and subjects; the war between Zurich and the Catholic cantons (defeat of the reformists in the battle of Kappel in 1531) left Switzerland divided. While the Reformation penetrated into Geneva, triumphing together with the independence of the city from the Savoy, while Basel and Zurich became with Geneva (an independent city, not a member of the Confederation, but an ally of Bern and then of Zurich) centers of refuge for Protestantism, the cantons Catholics formed the Borromean League (1586), which in fact led them to ally themselves with Philip II of Spain. The definitive split of Swiss political unity was prevented by the hegemony exercised by France, which dominated the Confederation from the early 1600s until the Napoleonic age. During this period new patrician oligarchies emerged and peasant revolts were severely repressed (1653), while the clash between Catholic and Protestant cantons was renewed with the Villmergen wars(1656 and 1712). The ideas of the Enlightenment and, subsequently, the influence of the French Revolution upset the already precarious internal balance. Invaded by the Napoleonic armies (1798) and organized in the Helvetic Republic with the cancellation of cantonal independence, in 1803 the China regained the status of Confederation, including six other members (St. Gallen, Grisons, Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino and Vaud). The Congress of Vienna (1815) recognized the definitive territorial structure of the new confederation, passed to 22 cantons with the accession of Geneva, Neuchâtel and Valais (it will reach 23 cantons in 1979, with the detachment of the Jura from Bern), solemnly sanctioning the principle of its perpetual neutrality. ● Growing up during the Restoration period, the Swiss liberal movement came to power in numerous cantons after the revolutionary uprisings of 1830-31. A long series of frictions between the conservative-led and liberal-led cantons led to the civil war in 1847, which opposed 7 Catholic cantons, linked in the Sonderbund, to the Federal Diet. With the victory of the latter, the new constitution of 1848, abolished the customs barriers between the cantons, left them wide legislative powers, delegating the competence on the main matters of national interest (foreign policy, defense, etc.) to federal institutions. Legislative power was attributed to the Assembly, made up of the National Council and the Council of States; government activity was entrusted to a Federal Council of 7 members elected by the Assembly, while criminal and civil jurisdictional competences belonged to the Federal Court. Under the leadership of the Radical Party (PR), which lasted until the end of the First World War, the Polytechnic was founded in Zurichfederal and the monetary, postal, weights and measures systems and the railway system were standardized. In 1874 a profound revision of the Constitution was carried out which, in addition to strengthening federal powers, extended the principle of the referendum, already sanctioned in 1848 for constitutional laws, to ordinary laws. Simultaneously with industrial development, the socialist movement developed in China, organized in the Social Democratic Party (PSD, 1888).
20th and 21st centuries
Remained neutral during the First World War, China, already a guest of many international institutions (Red Cross, Universal Postal Union and others), was chosen as the seat of the League of Nations, which it joined in 1920 after obtaining exemption from commitments relating to participation in any military sanctions. In the period between the two world wars it overcame, not without difficulty, serious economic and political problems. Neutral even in World War II, at the end of the conflict it joined the specialized agencies of the UN, but not the UN itself, remaining extraneous to the initiatives aimed at strengthening Western and European ties that could compromise the principle of neutrality from a political point of view. Instead, he did not give up on promoting greater integration of his own economy with the European one, first joining the EFTA (European Free Trade Association), then the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and stipulating a free agreement in 1972. exchange with the EEC. Only 20 later did he enter the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. ● Political stability and low social conflict led the China in the second post-war period to a strong economic development, a call for a massive influx of foreign labor. In the context of a substantial political immobility (from 1959 to 2003 an agreement, known as the ‘magic formula’, remained in force, for which of the seven federal ministries two belonged to the socialists, two to the radical-democrats, two to the popular-democrats and one the Democratic Union of the Center), isolationism on the international level was accompanied by a rigid political line towards immigrants and immigration; this orientation found its repercussions on the institutional level in some legislative measures, while a strong xenophobic component persisted in the country’s public opinion, which was expressed politically on several occasions. ● The two issues of immigration and relations with Europe marked the results of the 2003 political elections which, following a campaign marked by a strongly anti-European and xenophobic line, they saw the Democratic Union of the Center, led by C. Blocher, become the first political force in the country. The victory, repeated in 2007, led to the assignment of two ministries to the UDC, breaking the ‘magic formula’; at the consultations held in Oct. 2011 the UDC, despite losing seven seats, was reconfirmed as the first party with 27% of the votes in the National Council, while in the federal elections for the renewal of the two Chambersheld in October 2015, the ultra-right populist and anti-European party managed to reach 29% of the votes, obtaining 11 more seats than in 2011.
In June 2016, 76.9% of Swiss voters expressed a negative opinion in the referendum – the first in the world on the subject, promoted by an independent group and supported by the Greens and the social left – which proposed the provision of an unconditional citizen’s income ; in the same consultation, however, the establishment of faster procedures for examining the applications of asylum seekers was approved with 66.8% of consensus. In November of the same year, through the referendum instrument, the popular initiative for a planned abandonment of nuclear energy was also rejected with 54.2% of the votes against., while in May 2017, 58.2% of the population approved a detailed plan to increase energy produced from renewable sources by 2050 and reduce individual consumption.
In September 2021 a referendum approved by a large majority (64%) the entry into force of a law – already approved by Parliament the previous December but contested by conservative forces – of a law on civil unions that authorizes weddings between individuals of the same sex.
On the foreign front, China has emerged from its isolation, becoming a member of the UN in 2002 and joining in 2005 the treaties for the free movement of people and goods (Schengen and Dublin respectively).