At the third layer of the Swiss federal landscape are the communes, i.e. cities and villages throughout the country. In 2018, there were 2’222 communes in Switzerland. The city of Zurich is the largest commune (ca. 400’000 inhabitants) and the village of Corippo is the smallest (13 inhabitants).39 On average, Swiss communes have about 2’800 inhabitants, the median standing at just over 1’000 inhabitants. The number of communes is rapidly declining, as many of them are merging to ease their administrative burdens. The degree of autonomy of communes is determined by the Constitution of the canton they belong to. According to Article 83 of the cantonal Constitution of Zurich, the communes are responsible for all public tasks that are neither assigned to the confederation nor the cantons. Thus, communes provide institutions like social welfare authorities, primary schools, the local police, or the justices of the peace. They are responsible for the maintenance of streets and urban development in general, supply of electrical energy, and the levying of taxes. Some larger communes (cities) have a parliament, but in over 80 % of all communes in Switzerland it is the communal assembly, a gathering of all local citizens, that is the legislative body. They decide on the statute (“constitution”) of the commune and elect the local government or mayor.
39The Swiss Confederation – A Brief Guide, 2018 (https://perma.cc/YM59-ZMFK), p. 13.