The Federal Parliament shall enacts the provisions for the rules of law in the form of a federal statute or an ordinance. All other decrees are enacted as federal decrees. A federal decree not sujected to a referendum is called a simple federal decree.
All important provisions establishing rules of law must be enacted in the form of federal statutes. These include the fundamental provisions on:
- the exercise of political rights
- the restrictions of consitutional rights
- the rights and obligations of persons
- the sphere of tax payers, and the object and the calculation of taxes
- the tasks and services of the Confederation
- the obligations of the Cantons when implementing and executing federal law;
- the organization and the procedure of federal authorities
The following is submitted to the vote of the People and the Cantons:
- Revisions of the Federal Constitution
- The entry into organizations for collective security or into supranational communities
- Federal statutes declared urgent which have no constitutional basis and whose validity exceeds one year. Such federal statutes must be submitted to the vote within one year after their adoption by the Federal Parliament
The following shall be submitted to the vote of the People:
- Popular initiatives for total revision of the Federal Constitution
- Popular initiatives for partial revision of the Federal Constitution in the form of a general suggestion which were rejected by the Federal Parliament
- The question whether a total revision of the Constitution should be carried out if both Chambers disagree
The following are submitted to the vote of the People at the request of 50'000 citizens entitled to vote, or of eight Cantons:
- Federal statutes
- Federal statutes declared urgent with a validity exceeding one year
- Federal decrees to the extent the Constitution of the statute foresees this
- International treaties which:
- are of unlimited duration and may not be terminated
- provide for the entry into an international organization
- involve a multilateral unification of law
The Federal Parliament may submit further international treaties to optional referendum.
Legislative acts of unlimited duration that contain rules of law must be enacted in the form of a law. Acts of limited duration must be enacted in the form of a general decree.
All general or abstract legislation that imposes obligations or confers rights on individuals, that governs the organisation, competence or tasks of Legislative or Executive Councils, or which establishes a procedure are rules of law.
Legislative acts for which no specific form has been laid down must take the form of a simple federal decree.
Referenda, Federal laws and general decrees must be submitted to the people for a vote when a request is made by 50 000 citizens. This is also the case for irrevocable international treaties of unlimited duration, membership agreements with international organisations and agreements that involve a multilateral unification of law.
The Federal Assembly can submit other treaties or agreements to the process of optional referendum if it so desires.
Simple decrees are not subject to the process of referendum.
Decrees concerning constitutional revision must be submitted to the people and the Cantons for a vote and can result from a "popular initiative" backed by 100 000 signatures or a decision of Parliament. The referendum procedure is also compulsory in the case of membership in collective security organisations (e.g. UN) or international communities (e.g. EU).
Constitutional revisions enter into force when they have been accepted both by the majority of citizens taking part in the vote and by the majority of the Cantons (12 out of 23). The result of the popular vote in each Canton is considered to be the vote of the Canton.