Cabinet election set to dominate summer session

Vote counters might not have much to do during the cabinet election Keystone

The election to replace the outgoing Swiss economics minister, Joseph Deiss, is set to be the high point of the parliamentary session which began in Bern on Tuesday.

This content was published on June 6, 2006 - 07:53

But there are also major issues for debate on the agenda of the three-week session, including the taxation of married couples.

The federal assembly, which is a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, will elect a cabinet minister to replace Deiss on June 14.

There has been little betting on the outcome of the vote as the only candidate is the Aargau parliamentarian Doris Leuthard, president and the star of the centre-right Christian Democratic Party.

The parliamentary group of her party nominated her officially on Tuesday and she is to all intents and purposes elected and will become only the fifth woman to hold a cabinet seat.

Pundits say the fact that she is under 50, a woman and the darling of her party, which has a monopoly on one seat in the power-sharing cabinet, is more than enough to virtually guarantee victory.

The only question seems to be how clear the result of the voting will be.

Economics Minister Deiss, who hails from canton Fribourg, announced his surprise resignation at the end of April, saying that after seven years in the government the time had come for fresh blood.

Marriage penalty

A major debate scheduled in the Senate, the chamber that represents Switzerland 26 cantons, is on immediate measures to lessen the so-called "marriage penalty".

The government wants to eliminate or ease the tax burden on married couples who pay more than those who live together unmarried.

A Senate commission has unanimously recommended that the bill be approved even though it is expected to cost the government an extra SFr650 million ($538 million).

A second major issue in parliament – reform of the corporate tax system – could also cost the government money.

Double taxation

The target is the double taxation whereby companies pay taxes on their profits and shareholders are then taxed on dividends earned.

The government believes reforms would strengthen Switzerland as an economic centre.

During the session, the House of Representatives is set to tackle details of a tax on CO2 emissions.

swissinfo, Christian Raaflaub

Key facts

Major topics in the summer session:
Cabinet by-election on June 14
Tax on married couples
Corporate tax reform
Privatisation of Swisscom
Revision of the invalidity insurance
Modification of the law on weapons
People's initiative for a single health insurance scheme
Tax on CO2 emissions

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In brief

Parliament – the Senate and the House of Representatives – meets four times a year for a three-week session.

Depending on the state of the deliberations, a one-week extra session can be held in May. This year the Senate did not take part.

The Swiss government or executive has seven members who are elected or confirmed in their posts by the two houses of parliament – the federal assembly – every four years.

Every cabinet member is head of a ministry.

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