Pandemic forces historic cancellation of Swiss open-air voting

Voting in Glarus in 2018 Keystone

Canton Glarus’s open-air assembly (“Landsgemeinde”), the oldest form of direct democracy in Switzerland, will definitely not take place this year. It is the first time the event has been cancelled since the founding of the federal state in 1848.

This content was published on August 25, 2020 - 19:08

The Covid-19 pandemic had already pushed back the event, at which people squeeze into a central square and vote by raising their hands, from the first Sunday in May to September 6.

The assembly in nearby canton Appenzell Inner Rhodes, which normally takes place at the end of April, had already been cancelled this year. Political business was decided at the ballot box last weekend.

The government in Glarus, in eastern Switzerland, announced on Tuesday that urgent business would be dealt with by the cantonal parliament instead of the assembly. The remaining items on the agenda would be moved to next year’s event.

It said the main reason for the cancellation was the fact that the maximum number of coronavirus cases set by the government “will most probably be exceeded”. A limit had been set of ten unrelated cases of infection in the two weeks preceding the Landsgemeinde.

The number of infections has been rising continuously since the beginning of August in Glarus, as it has across the country. Between August 10 and 24, 16 positive coronavirus results were recorded. The expected low turnout in the voting ring also played a role in the government’s deliberations.

The 600-year-old tradition has been postponed several times because of bad weather, but this is the first time it has been cancelled. Voters even gathered in the ring every year during the First and Second World Wars.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?