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Brunner elected president of Social Democrats

The new Social Democrat president Christiane Brunner (middle) with her two new deputies.


Switzerland's Social Democratic Party has, as expected, elected Christiane Brunner as its new president.

Brunner, a 53-year-old member of the Senate from canton Geneva and head of the influential Swiss industry, trades and services union, was elected by acclaim at the party congress in Lugano. She was the sole candidate.

Two deputy presidents were also elected: Christine Goll from Zurich and Hans-Jürg Fehr of Schaffhausen - both members of the House of Representatives.

Brunner's nomination was designed to end nearly a year of internal conflict came to a head last April with the resignation of the former party president, Ursula Koch, after a highly public internal feud.

After a period of interim leadership, the Social Democrats are hoping Brunner will reunite the party and carry out structural reforms.

Brunner is seen as a representative of the more pragmatic, moderate section of the party. Social Democrats are hoping she will be able to work better with the party's parliamentary faction - in contrast to her predecessor - and reconcile policy differences with more left-wing rank-and-file members.

As president, she is expected to highlight social issues and problems, and one of her main tasks will be to ensure that the Social Democrats counter the high-profile policies and pronouncements of the right-wing Swiss People's Party.

Brunner is also well known for her controversial, but unsuccessful bid in 1993 to become a minister in the seven-member cabinet. She was the victim of last minute political manoeuvring and personal attacks, which led to parliament blocking her candidature.

She entered the federal parliament in 1991 as a member of the House of Representatives, before being elected to the Senate in 1995.

The Social Democrats, one of the four parties in government, is the largest party in the House of Representatives, but the second largest overall in parliament.

by Ron Popper

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