The Swiss like to consider their country the home of direct democracy and citizens here are regularly asked to take a stand on national issues. The two chambers of parliament are (mainly) elected in a proportional voting system and the seven-member government appointed by parliament always includes representatives of all of the four or five major parties. Switzerland is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, once sovereign states which retain some independence and have their own constitutions, parliaments and governments. Bern is the capital and the seat of the parliament and the federal authorities. Due to the understanding of political independence many locals favour, Switzerland is not a member of the EU and joined the UN only as late as 2002. Switzerland does, however, cooperate with the EU in many areas, such as on the Schengen visa and border agreement.

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