Constitutional Change in Switzerland

Posted: 18 Aug 2009


The article presents a case of successful constitutional change in Switzerland, the “re-assignment of responsibilities between the federal government and the cantons and the new fiscal equalization scheme,” which was adopted in 2004 by referendum. By starting from the general assumption that ways and means are needed to strengthen general interests at the expense of distributive interests in constitutional discussions, the article endeavors to identify favorable conditions for successful constitutional change. By using insights from “constitutional political economy” and “actor-centered institutionalism,” four such conditions are revealed: the procedural separation of problem solving and bargaining interaction modes; the importance of ideational factors like “frames,” “causal theories,” and focal points; active agenda-crafting; and the structuring of constitutional debates by earlier decisions. In addition, this article highlights that other conditions, more directly linked to interest and interest struggle, can help to mitigate the intensity of distributive conflicts and are therefore indirectly conducive to a problem-solving interaction orientation of actors.

Suggested Citation

Braun, Dietmar, Constitutional Change in Switzerland. Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Vol. 39, Issue 2, pp. 314-340, 2009, Available at SSRN: or

Dietmar Braun (Contact Author)

University of Lausanne ( email )

Quartier Chambronne
Lausanne, Vaud CH-1015

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