The Swiss Custom of Voting While Shitfaced


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The Swiss Custom of Voting While Shitfaced

Landsgemeinde is a wonderful chance to get hammered in public and vote for a farmer to be your "city captain".

This article originally appeared onVICE Alps__

The Landsgemeinde, or "cantonal assembly", is Switzerland's oldest form of direct democracy – a rural voting ritual with roots in the 16th century. Basically, everyone who's eligible to vote gathers in his or her local city square and communally hashes out whatever issue is up for discussion on a given day. Everybody in attendance has an equal right to voice an opinion or protest a notion, and all final decisions are made via a show of hands.


The only people in the square who aren't actually allowed to vote are the service folk, who are far too busy filling voters full of beer and sausages. Decisions are best made when shitfaced, after all.

To get a better idea of the whole ritual, a few weeks ago we headed over to a town called Appenzell-Innerrhoden, which is actually one of the two Swiss cantons where the Landsgemeinde is still being practised. It's one of the country's oldest assemblies, where women have only actually had the right to vote for the past 25 years.

Historically, men have had to prove their voting eligibility by carrying a bayonet or side arm. The idea being that if you carry a weapon in public, then you are obviously a rational human-being who ought to have their opinion taken seriously.

Local musicians Harmony Appenzell kicked off the electoral proceedings by somehow managing to make the Swiss national anthem sound like 'The Imperial March'. It was an apt soundtrack to the march of local dignitaries and their guest of honour, the Minister of Commerce, which traditionally takes place before the assembly.

On that particular day, the people of Appenzell-Innerrhoden gathered to elect their new "city captain" – which is Swiss for "village mayor". The choice was between some right-wing guy, locally famous for owning a golf course and a farmer with no real political agenda.

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The election process was full of pints, heckling and rogue last minute candidate propositions. It was, for all intents and purposes, a complete shit-show. After the final show of hands, the farmer was crowned victorious. Sure, the whole affair may be a little more dramatic than the elections we're used to but, at the end of the day, everyone seemed to enjoy voting a lot more than you did last week.