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Each year on the last Sunday in April, all voters from Appenzell Inner Rhodes gather together on the «Landsgemeinde» square in Appenzell to appoint the highest authorities and to pass resolutions concerning important cantonal matters.


The Appenzell «Landsgemeinde», in all probability, assembled for the first time in the year 1378. Unfortunately, the deed that proves this voting assembly or at least mentioned it is missing. In the year 1403, the «Landsgemeinde» is mentioned in a deed thereby providing real evidence of at least the year 1403. In the year 1597, Inner Rhodes and Outer Rhodes split up. Since then, there are two «Landsgemeinde».

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the democratic rights were restricted but not without punishment by the people since, in the year 1828, the whole government including the clerk were disposed of. The right of freedom was again guaranteed through a new constitution. Today, the cantonal constitution of the 24th winter month or November 1872 is still valid. It was often revised in the 80's and 90's of this century.

The «Landsgemeinde» today

The «Landsgemeinde» is a sovereign assembly of active citizens which, once per year, is held by way of a solemn ceremony whereby the members of the highest authorities are elected and new laws are passed. It is the highest legislative authority with the exception of matters pertaining to the federal government.

Each year on the last Sunday in April, all voters from Appenzell Inner Rhodes gather together on the «Landsgemeinde» square in Appenzell to appoint the highest authorities and to pass resolutions concerning important cantonal matters. The «Landsgemeinde» elects the seven members of the Governing Council including the acting Governing Chairman, as well as the members of the cantonal court of justice and the chief judge. The acting Governing Chairman is elected for a period of two years, can however be reelected. Once per year, the individual citizen is therefore acquainted with the problems of the canton and the federation and, at the same time, is part of a handed-down tradition which our people have carried on over the centuries.

Procession to the «Landsgemeinde» (main street)

The «Landsgemeinde» actually starts already with a special service in the St. Mauritius parish church in Appenzell. Here, in bygone days, the «Landsgemeinde» assembled in bad weather. Shortly before midday we see the Governing Council (our cantonal government), the members of the cantonal court of justice (the highest judicial authorities), the Rhodes cadets with their coloured banners and the especially invited guests from far and near standing in front of the Town Hall. As soon as the bells start to peal, the procession to the «Landsgemeinde» square starts. The music society «Harmonie Appenzell» plays the «Marcia solenne» (ceremonious march) by the Italian composer, Puzzi.

In the meantime, the enclosed square fills up with voters. Swiss citizens who are residents of the canton from the age of 18 upwards (until 1992 from 20 years onwards) are admitted. Since 1991, voters with the official voting card are allowed into the square. The men however can decide themselves whether or not they wish to leave their voting card at home and carry a rapier in its place. Until 1991, this rapier was the only proof of being allowed to vote. The rapiers are usually handed down from one family generation to the other and are not normally left at home on this day. The cantonal government with its bailiff steps onto a rostrum which is known as the «Stuhl» (chair). Theceremony starts with the pealing of bells. The acting Governing Chairman welcomes the people with an opening speech. Afterwards, he summarizes the cantonal accounts and opens the discussion. Each person is allowed to go onto the rostrum and give his opinion or critics.

The acting Governing Chairman takes the seal of the canton – an original item from the years 1518/1530 – into his hand and assures that he has only used it according to the law and with the best of his knowledge. This is followed up by the election of the Governing Chairman. Inner Rhodes always elects two chairmen of the Governing Council, one governing chairman and one passive chairman who, depending on their personalities, do not always remain passive. After two years, both chairmen change. However, as members of the Governing Council, they have to be re-elected each year.

Now the acting Chairman of the Governing Council takes an oath followed up by the members of the public. The oath originates from the year 1409 and has remained the same until today, having only been adapted to modern day speech. Then the passive chairman of the Governing Council, the other members of the Governing Council and the members of the Cantonal Court of Justice have to wait for their confirmation of re-election. Each member is voted individually. Voting takes place by holding up of the right hand. If there is difficulty in assessing the majority, the voters have to be individually counted. This procedure is valid for the voting on the following matters.

The «Landsgemeinde» issues and revises the cantonal constitution and its laws. The constitution and the laws in a formal sense are compulsory items brought forward before the public. The same applies to credits which are not supported by federal law or a vote by the «Landsgemeinde» and in each case exceed Fr. 500,000 or Fr. 100,000 per year over a period of 5 years. Each item is open to discussion.

Each voter can bring ideas which have to be either in the form of a formulated initiative or a general suggestion. The initiator of the text has to hand in the text before the 1st October of the year of the «Landsgemeinde». The Greater Council debates it in two readings and makes reports and propositions regarding it to the «Landsgemeinde».

Until 1993, the «Landsgemeinde» conferred the right of citizenship of the canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes and thereby that of the inner part of Appenzell and Oberegg as well as the right of citizenship of the Swiss confederation. Today this is taken care of by the Greater Council.

The official part of the «Landsgemeinde» is finished. Then come the communities of the rhodes which hold their own meetings at different places. Until 1873, they had political functions which originated from the 13th century. Today, they take care of cultural duties.