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Embattled minister's popularity plummets

The public's approval rating of Defence Minister Samuel Schmid has dropped from 80 per cent last year to just 33 per cent, according to a poll on Wednesday.

For the first time since 2002 Pascal Couchepin, this year's president, doesn't find himself at the bottom of the seven-minister class, thanks largely to Schmid experiencing an annus horribilis.

Schmid is under pressure to resign both over reforms of the armed forces and personnel decisions. He is also at odds with the rightwing Swiss People's Party, which he left to join a breakaway political group earlier this year.

Economics Minister Doris Leuthard got the thumbs up from 87 per cent of respondents, followed on 82 per cent by Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, who is also currently heading the finance ministry after Hans-Rudolf Merz's recent heart attack.

The poll, which was conducted between September 9-18 before the finance minister's collapse, gave Merz his best score of 79 per cent, following solid economic prognoses for Switzerland.

Moritz Leuenberger, who holds the environment, transport, energy and communications portfolio, and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey both recorded approval ratings of 64 per cent.

Calmy-Rey dropped points after a series of eyebrow-raising decisions, such as wearing a headscarf when signing a gas deal with the Iranians and appearing to call for dialogue with Osama bin Laden.

The perennially unpopular Couchepin got the backing of 40 per cent of respondents.

Lausanne market research institute MIS Trend polled 688 people aged 18-74. The results are published in the French language magazine L'Illustré.


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