Sixth Section – table of content


“Stets hat Jean-Jacques Rousseau den Gedan­ken des absolut Richtigen und Gerechten im Sinn einer Grösse, die dem Menschen verfügbar wäre, verworfen. Das unterscheidet ihn klar vom Standpunkt des Doktrinärs, der sich anmasst, seine Erkenntnis anderen als die unbe­dingte und allgemein gültige aufzudrängen.”
(Richard Bäumlin: Rousseau und die Theorie des demokra­tischen Rechtsstaates, in: Berner Fest­gabe zum Schweize­rischen Juristen­tag 1979, ed. Eugen Bucher and Peter Saladin, Bern: Paul Haupt, 1979)

Introduction: The Swiss Political System Between Participation and Representation

The crucial question to be discussed has been addressed by Richard Bäumlin, when he offered an alternative between a vivid democracy and a subdued democracy (Lebendige oder gebändigte Demokratie? Demokrati­sie­rung, Verfassung und Verfassungsrevision, Basel: Z-Verlag, 1978; see entry 6.10 of this Legal Anthology). Evidently, the answer to this question depends on the interpretation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. If the fear of a totalitarian misunderstanding can be discarded, there is no reason not to opt for a vivid civil society and for a strong concept of democratic participation (see entry 6.11 of this Legal Anthology).

When describing traditional elements, dogmatic democracy and continuous develop­ment as an equilibrium, Fritz Fleiner has not really opted to take side between between these two options (entry 6.3 of this Legal Anthology). Neither did so Walther Burckhardt when he discussed the concept of authority within a semi-direct democracy (see entry 6.4 of this Legal Anthology). It is only Zaccaria Giacometti, who explicitly argues that democracy is not menacing human rights and individual freedoms, but rather securing them (Die Demokratie als Hüterin der Menschen­rechte, in: Festreden zur 121. Stiftungsfeier der Uni­ver­sität Zürich, in: Jahres­berichte der Univer­sität Zürich, vols. 1954, pp. 3-23).

Apparently, the solution to the crucial problem of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights consists in identifying the core values within the constitutional legal order, or the codified political system of Swiss democracy. This approach has been undertaken by Werner Nef, in his attempt to distil the order of values underlying the constitution (see entry 6.5 of this Legal Anthology), and equally by Werner Kägi, in his effort to provide a synthesis of democracy and the rule of law (see entry 6.6 of this Legal Anthology). These two initiatives at conceptualisation, however, are not open to fully fledged and veritable demo­cratic discourse, as they take the pre-existing order for a given and everlasting. In order to proceed to a more sophisticated conception of the problems in cause, we have to reconsider the theory of the different forms of government and not only to revisit it, but rather to revise it, as Max Imboden has proposed (see entry 6.8 of this Legal Anthology).

Nevertheless, one important question seems to remain unresolved, namely whether there are some ground-laying values to be rescued from free democratic decision. In his political-philosophical writing on “Democratic Justice” published in 1993, Jörg Paul Müller has answered this question in the positive, affirmative sense (see entry 6.13 of this Legal Anthology). Subsequently, in a more recent writing on the “Constitution of Democracy” published in 2002, the same author has modified his former conviction and has renounced to fundamental values within the constitutional order of democracy, with the exception of abstract fundamental qualifications (see entry 6.14 of this Legal Antho­logy), according to our reading and following our opinion.

A Theory of Representation as a Complement to the Theory of Democracy

Semi-direct democracy as a characteristic of the Swiss political and constitutional system would deserve a proper theory of representation, in complement to direct democratic partici­pation, as a matter of fact. For it is the interplay of representative and participatory forces, that actually produces the checks and balances within the Swiss Federal Constitutions. Such a theory of representation has been discussed in times of the French Revolution, and a scientific attempt to found such a theory has been undertaken by Gerhard Leibholz in German “Weimar Republic”. In Switzerland, however, there is an apparent lack of such an approach to representation in connection to direct-democratic participation (maybe with the exception of the doctoral dissertation by Kurt Zwyssig).

The Enduring Meaning of the Theory of Pouvoir Constitutant – The Question of Constraints to the Process of Constitution-Making

In Swiss constitutional law the question of material restrictions or constraints to the process of Constitution-Making has repeatedly been discussed (Hans Nef: Materielle Schranken der Verfassungsrevision, in: Zeitschrift für Schweizerisches Recht, vol. 1942/ I, Basel: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1942, pp. 108 ss.; Hans Haug: Die Schranken der Verfas­sungs­revision, St. Gallen, 1947; Paul Siegenthaler: Die materiellen Schranken der Verfas­sungsrevision als Problem des positiven Rechts. Verlag Stämpfli und Cie AG, Bern 1970; Jörg Paul Müller: Materiale Schranken der Verfassungsrevision? In: Festschrift für Hans Haug, Bern 1986,pp. 195 ss.; Luzius Wildhaber: Rechtsfragen der Verfassungsrevision − Materielle Schranken, materielle Totalrevision, Abstimmungsverfahren bei Totalrevision, in: Aktuelle Probleme des Staats‐ und Verwaltungsrechts, Festschrift für Otto K. Kauf­mann, Bern/ Stuttgart: P. Haupt, 1989, pp. 43 ss.; and Martin Kayser: Grundrechte als Schranke der schweizerischen Verfassungsgebung – Ein Beitrag zur Lehre von den materiellen Schranken der Verfassungsrevision, in: Zürcher Studien zum öffentlichen Recht, vol. 140, Zürich: Schulthess, 2001) and attempts have been made to identify a kernel that would not be open to the access of the Pouvoir Constituant in the course of a revision of the constitution (compare Walter Jellinek: Grenzen der Verfassungsgesetzgebung, Berlin: Springer, 1931). Such temptations (as the pseudo solution adopted by the “Bonner Grundgesetz”) may apparently have the appeal of legal-philosophical argumentation, however they do not hit the core of the question. According to Walter Burckhardt, not even the constitutional dispositions about the revision of the constitution itself can claim a binding character (Einleitung, in: Kommentar der schweizerischen Bundesverfassung vom 29. Mai 1874, Bern: Stämpfli & Cie, 1st ed. 1905, p. 6 s.). In a truly republican sense, the constitution-making body, i.e. the Pouvoir Constituant is totally free from obligations deriving from the former legal order. Nevertheless, it would be appro­priate to speak of “Realien der Verfassunggebung”, of “binding realities for constitution-making” in the sense established by Eugen Huber in the perspective of the process of codification of the private or civil law (apart from the binding force of ius cogens and of the international legal order in general). If ever, such restrictions have to be stated by inter­national law, or they refer to generic ideas underlying every legal order, as in particular the guarantee of human dignity (Philippe Mastronardi: Menschenwürde als materielle “Grundnorm” des Rechtsstaates, in: Verfassungsrecht der Schweiz, ed. Daniel Thürer, Jean-François Aubert and Jörg Paul Müller, assisstance Oliver Diggelmann, Zürich: Schulthess, 2001, pp. 233 ss.), or the principles of rule of law or due process of law (Martin Luchsinger: Die Prinzipien des Rechtsstaates als materielle Schranken der Verfassungsrevision, Zürich, 1960).

For Further Reading

Gerhard Leibholz: Das Wesen der Repräsentation unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Repräsentativsystems − Ein Beitrag zur allgemeinen Staats‐ und Verfassungslehre, in: Beiträge zum ausländischen öffentlichen Recht und Völkerrecht, ed. Viktor Bruns, Nr. 13, Berlin/ Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter, 1929;

Giuseppe Sartori: Demokratietheorie, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1992;

Kurt Zwyssig: Repräsentation – Versuch einer neuen Repräsentations­theorie (Disser­tation Universität Zürich), Zürich: Schulthess Polygra­phi­scher Verlag, 1971.