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Curtain falls on last parliament

(Keystone)

About 40 parliamentarians officially retired from Switzerland's national political stage on Friday when the autumn session came to an end.

swissinfo met five senior politicians in the parliament building over the past few days to hear about their careers and hopes for the future.

The new parliament will meet for the first time in December following the general elections later this month.

The last waltz began for some parliamentarians as early as last Monday when the 14 senators who will not stand for re-election, organised a small party with food and drinks from their respective regions.

Nobody appears unduly sad, may be just a bit nostalgic.

"There is a life after retirement from the political scene. It's time for a younger generation to take over," says Michel Béguelin. The member of the centre-left Social Democrats is 71 and therefore the veteran of the group.

He adds that the Senate is similar to "a small club", and members are foremost respected for the "quality of their ideas than for their party affiliations".

"I enjoyed my time in parliament, but it's the right time for me to go;" says Trix Heberlein of the centre-right Radicals from Zurich. She wrapped up her 16-year parliamentary career with a four-year term in the Senate.

Mozart

In the other parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives, the festive atmosphere only sets in on Friday, the last day of the three-week autumn session.

Musicians from a local symphony orchestra play some Mozart in front of the 200-member assembly, including the outgoing speaker of the House, Christine Egerszegi.

For his part Jacques-Simon Eggly shows no signs of relenting on his last days in the capital, Bern.

He holds a record of his own. He spent a total of 38 years of his life in and around parliament. First he was a political correspondent and later a parliamentarian for the Liberal Party for 24 years.

"I'm 65 now and I don't feel too old, but it's time to make room for younger people," says Eggly – who hails from Geneva – and who is also the president of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA).

Senate

The Senate (also referred to as the Council of States) consists of 46 members and is the smaller parliamentary chamber. Its members represent the ...

Family

One of his colleagues from the French-speaking part of the country, Pierre Kohler, steps down after just one parliamentary term and nine years as a government member in his home canton of Jura.

The 43-year-old Christian Democrat says he took the decision for pragmatic reasons because his wife has a promising offer of a good job. After all somebody in the family has to stay at home and look after the children, he says.

There is a tinge of sadness in Anne-Catherine Menétray-Savary's voice. The 69-year old Green parliamentarian says the years in Bern have been sometimes hard but also very interesting.

"I feel a sense of relief. I believe my time here was not wasted at least. After my retirement I want to read, write and go for walks."

Political climate

None of the three parliamentarians are very happy with the increasing polarisation in Swiss politics.

Menétray-Savary is sorry to see how political debates have turned into show fights instead of having serious discussions on ideas and programmes, while Kohler says the political climate has worsened.

"The polarisation is not compatible with Swiss traditions," he says.

"Things are changing," says Eggly. "It has become more complicated even if we are still a militia parliament of part-time politicians. But the younger generation is very often clearly moving towards a parliament of full-time professionals."

swissinfo, based on an article in Italian by Doris Lucini

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives (also referred to as the National Council) is one of two parliamentary chambers. Its 200 members are elected directly ...

In brief

The Swiss parliament consists of two equal chambers. The House of Representatives has 200 members while the Senate has 46 seats. They usually meet four times a year for three-week sessions.

24 current members of the House and 14 senators will not stand again in the elections.

During the past autumn session both chambers approved 24 laws and regulations, including the language law, the agriculture policy and measures to promote education and research as well a proposal to streamline the criminal procedure in the 26th cantons.

For its part, the House sat for more than 1,200 hours, debated 400 draft laws by the government and 5,000 proposals by parliament over the past four years.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 21, cabinet will be elected on December 12.

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