Landsgemeinde (open-air parliament)

Never is it more apparent than on Landsgemeinde Sunday that power rests with the people. The Landsgemeinde (open-air parliament) is the embodiment of direct iving democracy and has taken place in the open air on the last Sunday in April since 1403. On this day the seven members of the Standeskommission (cantonal parliament) and the cantonal judges are elected or confirmed in office and voting takes place on constitutional, legislative and financial issues.

Following the Landsgemeinde service in the parish church the cantonal coucillors and members of the cantonal court in their official cloaks (called «Liichemaantl») make their way from the Rathaus (Town Hall) to the meeting place. At the head of the procession is the Landweibel («usher») with the sceptre. The clerk of the council carries the silver Land Register to the podium, a two-storey wooden stand on which the Landammänner (presidents of the government), «Secklmeischte» (head of the finance department), Statthalter (head of the health and social department), «Landshopme» (head of the agriculture and forestry department), Bauherr (head of the construction and environmental department), «Landsfehnirch» (head of the judicial, police and military department) and cantonal judges take their places. The procession is led by the Harmonie music group, which has played the slow Landsgemeinde March since the 19th century. 

When the great bell in the church tower falls silent, the presiding Landammann opens the assembly with an adress. After the election, the presiding Landammann and then the eligible voters swear the landsgemeinde oath.

Before the voting on government issues takes place, members of the Standeskommission and the cantonal court are elected (or re-elected), and every four years elections take place for the Ständerat (upper chamber). The government gives an account of its activities and of the cantonal budget. At this point, as well as during discussions of governmental issues, each person entitled to vote has the opportunity to come onto the podium and argue for or against an issue, put forward a suggestion or submit an individual initiative. The Landammann invites participation with the words: « S Woot ischt frei» («The word is free»). Voting is done by a show of hands. 

After the Landsgemeinde is over, there is a lively village celebration.