The conservative right Swiss People’s Party has announced that it is putting three men into the running for a second seat in cabinet - to fill the spot currently held by Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.
The party put an end to weeks of speculation by saying on Friday evening that it had chosen Thomas Aeschi, Guy Parmelin and Norman Gobbi as candidates for the post.
Widmer-Schlumpf is a member of the centre-right Conservative Democratic Party, which got only 4.1% of the vote in parliamentary elections on October 18. The People’s Party notched up a record 29.4%, the largest percentage.
This, it says, entitles it to a second seat in the seven-person cabinet, whose members are elected not by voters but by the 246 members of the two chambers of parliament. This vote will take place on December 9.
Widmer-Schlumpf has already announced that she would not stand for re-election for a third term.
The minister had been at the centre of a political earthquake on December 12, 2007 when she replaced in cabinet Christoph Blocher, the controversial billionaire figurehead of the People’s Party, who was voted out after only one term as justice minister. Originally a People’s Party member herself, Widmer-Schlumpf was excluded from the party after her election, along with her Graubünden cantonal faction. This section then founded the Conservative Democrats.
Aeschi - favourite
The People’s Party candidates each represent a language region: Aeschi is from Zug, in the German-speaking part of the country, Parmelin represents the French speakers and Gobbi, Italian-speaking Ticino.
The party said its choice was a “clear signal” that all the regions were equally important to it.
Observers say 36-year-old management consultant Aeschi has the best chance of being elected because there are already two French-speaking ministers in cabinet: Didier Burkhalter and Alain Berset.
Gobbi, originally from the right populist Lega dei Ticinesi and only a People’s Party member for a few weeks, is not so well known in Bern, where parliament sits.
swissinfo.ch with agencies