The president of Switzerland's Christian Democratic Party, Adalbert Durrer, has resigned. Citing a party split over European integration as a reason for his departure, Durrer said he would be joining the Swiss bank, UBS, from next year.
Announcing his surprise resignation on Thursday, Durrer, 50, said he would step down on May 12, after four years as president of the party.
He said his departure would enable the party to find a new leader in good time to fight the next general election in 2003. The party is one of four that make up the government.
Durrer said he had always been a "political animal", but that it was time for a change. He added that he would also be resigning his parliamentary seat in the autumn.
From January, he is to take up a post as a managing director in UBS Group Policy and Research. His dossiers include Swiss politics and special projects.
Durrer's resignation received a mixed response. The leader of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, Ueli Maurer, said Durrer's tenure had coincided with a decline in the Christian Democrats' political fortunes, but that he was not to blame.
On Durrer's new job at UBS, Maurer added that the outgoing party leader was "lucky to have good friends in business".
The leader of the Social Democrats, Christiane Brunner, said Durrer had apparently found a more lucrative job. Her colleague, Franco Cavalli, welcomed the news, saying that under Durrer's leadership, the party had moved steadily to the right.
Durrer said his decision to step down had been influenced by splits in his party over the issue of abortion and whether Switzerland should start immediate membership negotiations with the European Union.
Durrer had publicly stated his opposition to the EU proposal, but his party voted to support it at its congress in January. The issue came to a nationwide vote on March 4, and was overwhelmingly rejected by Swiss voters.
Durrer said on Thursday that he had expected his party's support on the issue.
swissinfo with agencies