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Brunner announces candidacy to head Social Democrats

Christiane Brunner announcing her candidacy for the post of president of the Social Democrats


Christiane Brunner has put an end to speculation about whether she will seek to become the next president of the Social Democratic Party by officially announcing her candidacy for the post.

A Senate member for Geneva, Brunner made the announcement at a meeting of the party's central committee in Berne, on Saturday. However, she said that in so doing, she hoped other candidates for the job would not be intimidated. "I am not an idol," Brunner reportedly said.

The House of Representatives' Hildegard Fässler, of canton St. Gallen, had already made public her intention of running for head of the party, in an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger.

The post of party president was vacated last month by Ursula Koch, after months of wrangling within the party. The Social Democrats are to vote on Koch's successor at their party conference in mid-October.

Brunner had said in April that in the interests of the Social Democratic Party, she would not exclude the possibility of becoming a candidate. But she had insisted that she would only consider taking up the post of president if internal party reforms were undertaken.

Brunner said these "structural reforms" had to allow the party leadership to respond more quickly to political changes. She also called for greater involvement of local party sections in key decisions.

Brunner is part of the three-member committee charged with formulating party changes, together with the interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, and Franco Cavalli.

Brunner is set to step down as president of Unia, the union for industry, construction and services, at the end of October 2000. The date coincides with the Social Democrats' meeting in Lugano where the party will decide on Koch's successor and party reforms.

Ursula Koch resigned on April 16, amidst a wave of internal party divisions and widespread calls for her to go. Political analysts observed that the internal drama surrounding Koch's leadership reflected the party's identity problem. They said the party, which once appealed to working class voters, had become increasingly middle class.

swissinfo with agencies

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