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Blocher is back in running for cabinet post

The Zurich branch of the rightwing Swiss People's Party has signalled strong support for Christoph Blocher to return to the cabinet by naming him its sole candidate.

The party will choose a new cabinet representative to replace outgoing Defence Minister Samuel Schmid on November 27.

The Zurich branch voted by 47 to one in favour of nominating Blocher for the post.

The nomination of Blocher highlights the differences between the different regional party sections.

The Bern branch put forward parliamentarians Adrian Amstutz and Andreas Aebi, and the Vaud section nominated senator Jean-Claude Mermoud. The party's parliamentary group leader Caspar Baader was nominated by the Basel Country branch.

It is a sign that the party does not want a change of direction, Zurich branch president Ueli Maurer said, adding that the name of Blocher was integral to the party.

Blocher, 68, responded: "I will do it, if it is necessary." Last week he had said he preferred not to stand but would step up if called upon by the party.

Parliament refused to re-elect party figurehead Blocher to cabinet last December, widening divisions within the party and leading some parliamentarians to defect and form a new party.