|Associations in Switzerland|
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In Switzerland, the best way to gain some political and social clout is to create an association. There are associations for everything, from the trade guilds to the association of chocolate eaters. These groups can become extremely influential, even more than the political parties. The best example would have to be the ASIN, the Association for a Switzerland Independent and Neutral, a conservative group that could easily collect 100,000 signatures to put to vote any law they happen to disapprove of.
The Swiss political system lends so such weight to the various interest groups and associations that political scientists are now referring to a consociational democracy. They play a fundamental role in development of legislation that serves their interests.
This associative phenomenon is one of the cornerstones of Swiss culture, the legacy of a long tradition of communal life. Joining an association is an excellent way for a foreigner to socialize. It’s often said that when three Swiss meet in a bistro, they represent the President, Secretary and Treasurer of a budding association. It begins early, with the Société de Jeunesse, or youth club, a typically Swiss group that brings together single youth from the time they finish their compulsory schooling (around 16 years) up until marriage. In the last few years, young women have been admitted into these clubs, although they used to be strictly men-only affairs. Each village also has a firefighter’s association, made up entirely of volunteers who ensure safe-keeping at the sound of the alarm.
And then of course there is the ever-present brass band that gathers together inhabitants from all areas, true lovers of military or civil music. This group is inevitably in charge of village animation, and you will be sure to find them at any event that deals with village life.
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