Democracy bases its legitimacy on the promise to adequately and appropriately represent the population. However, a look at Switzerland’s system reveals some shortcomings: women, young people, foreigners and the low-qualified are often absent from political institutions. Democratic rights don’t fall from the sky. They are the achievement of brave people who demanded and fought for political rights for themselves and for their fellow citizens. Such efforts fighting for equality were also seen in Switzerland. Almost 100 years ago, the social and political situation in the country was explosive, and many were dissatisfied with living and working conditions; factory workers, in particular, felt politicians had abandoned them.
This resulted in a massive, if temporary, boost for the socialist workers’ movement, fanning the class struggle in Switzerland. And through coordinated strikes and protests, workers challenged the political elite, forcing them to make concessions.
Although many demands remained unfulfilled, the workers notched up some sweeping successes. One was the introduction in 1919 of proportional representation, a historic change of the political system that meant the 200 seats in the House of Representatives would henceforth be allocated according to the strength of the parties.
Concretely, the turning away from the first-past-the-post system meant the end of the Free Democratic Party’s domination, and twice as many seats for the Social Democratic Party.