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Politics & Legislation

Napoleon formed the canton of Aargau over two centuries ago by consolidating three territories that were previously politically unassociated. Aargau has been a political entity ever since. It is one of the 26 cantons comprising Switzerland's federalist system.

Powers at federal, cantonal and municipal level are split between the legislature, the executive and judiciary branches. The duties of these three powers are arranged so that each is independent, none can abuse their power, and the rights and freedoms of the population remain protected.

Voting citizens play a decisive part in co-determining what goes on in politics in the canton. They can decide on constitutional amendments and even propose laws.

Ten out of the 213 municipalities in the canton have a Residents' Council as their parliament; for the rest, the Municipal Assembly is the highest political authority.

Penelope Kühnis, presenter and journalist talks about politics and legislation in Aargau

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Political parties and associations

Political parties and associations are centrally important to focusing political interests. Nine parties are currently represented in the Grand Council. Numerous associations and interest groups are active at regional, cantonal and national levels. Major national associations such as the Association of Swiss Electricity Companies (VSE) (will open in new window), created in 1895 at the proposal of Aarau city power station, and the Swiss Gymnastics Federation (will open in new window) founded in 1833 are based in the canton of Aargau.

The legislature

The Grand Council (Grosse Rat) is the cantonal parliament and the legislative authority. Its 140 members are elected by the people. Parliament determines – usually in the form of laws – the rules of coexistence in Aargau.

On Tuesdays, parliamentarians from all strata of society and regions of the canton debate and deliberate on the current issues. Members of parliament are elected by popular vote and implement the will of the populace.

The executive branch

The Aargau Cantonal Government constitutes the executive branch. Together with the administration, it sees to the implementation of laws passed by parliament. The five government members are jointly committed to the goal of further strengthening Aargau both nationally and abroad as a major business location and attractive place to live. Subject to electoral mandate and parliament, the Cantonal Government determines major objectives and the means of governance. The Cantonal Government is tasked with representing the canton both inside and outside its borders. It also ensures public order and security, and maintains relations with the authorities in Federal Government and in other cantons.

The Cantonal Government takes decisions as a collegial body. The cantonal administration comprises five departments of government and the State Chancellery. Each government member presides over a governmental department, while the State Chancellor heads up the State Chancellery.

The judiciary branch

The judiciary is the guardian of the law. Impartially and independent of the other powers of State, the courts provide legal protection where required and actionable by grant of law. Judges elected by the people or their representatives perform this hugely responsible task day by day. They are bound only to the law, and perform their part in ensuring that the canton of Aargau as a polity operates under the rule of law. The organisation of the Aargau court system is stipulated in the constitution and in law.

Aargau in Federal Bern

Aargau has 16 political representatives in the National Council. The canton has both a male and a female representative in the Council of States. With the election of Walther Thurnherr in 2016, Aargau again has one of its own as a Federal Chancellor (will open in new window) after almost a century hiatus.

Aargau is a politically exciting canton.

Penelope KühnisPresenter and journalist:
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