Bloomberg News

Swiss Parliament Re-Elects All Current Government Members

December 15, 2011

(Adds Widmer-Schlumpf’s election as president in fifth paragraph.)

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Switzerland’s parliament confirmed all current government members and elected Alain Berset from the Social Democrats to join the coalition, snubbing efforts by the Swiss People’s Party to win a second seat.

Lawmakers in both chambers of parliament in Bern today re- elected Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Transport Minister Doris Leuthard, Defense Minister Ueli Maurer, Interior Minister Didier Burkhalter, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga and Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann. They also backed Berset, currently a member of the upper house.

The People’s Party has been pushing for a second seat in the seven-member ruling coalition after winning the largest share of votes in October general elections. Lawmakers from the Social Democrats to the business-friendly Liberals instead opted to maintain the current government setup, leaving the anti- immigration party with just one seat.

“We have a result that allows us to look into the future with some optimism,” Christian Levrat, head of the Social Democratic Party, told Swiss television. The People’s Party “needs a more constructive approach.”

Opposition

Widmer-Schlumpf was also elected Swiss president for one year today, a largely ceremonial role which is rotated among the members of the government.

A lawyer by training, she was elected to Switzerland’s government in 2007, replacing billionaire entrepreneur Christoph Blocher from the Swiss People’s Party, who had lost parliament’s backing. Widmer-Schlumpf became justice minister in 2008 and finance minister in November 2010.

The 55 year-old advocates a fast solution to the dispute about untaxed assets of U.S. account holders in Swiss banks. When the franc strengthened to record levels against the euro earlier this year, she signaled her backing for the central bank, helping pave the way for the use of unconventional tools including the currency cap against the euro.

The People’s Party is considering leaving the government and going into opposition after today’s result, according to President Toni Brunner.

“We’re facing difficult times and we all need to work together,” said Christophe Darbellay, head of the Christian Democrats. “If they want to go into opposition, we’ll respect that. I don’t expect them to go through with it though.”

Berset, 39, was elected after Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey announced her resignation. The representative of the country’s French-speaking part joined the upper house in 2003 and holds degrees in political science and economics from the university of Neuchatel, Switzerland.

Government members are able to change departments after their election, with the longest serving choosing first.

--Editors: Simone Meier, Matthias Wabl

To contact the reporter on this story: Klaus Wille in Zurich at kwille@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Matthias Wabl at mwabl@bloomberg.net; Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net


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