Switzerland's House of Representatives has elected its new speaker, Liliane Maury Pasquier, to succeed Zug's Peter Hess.This content was published on November 27, 2001 - 09:00
Maury Pasquier is the first French-speaking woman to hold the position, and the sixth woman. Her candidature was overwhelmingly approved on Monday night, by 151 out of 167 votes.
A Social Democrat, she was elected to parliament in 1995, and specialised in t he fields of social insurance and health. She has been a midwife.
Maury Pasquier, who was born in Geneva in 1956, hopes to improve understanding between French and German-speaking Switzerland during her one-year term. However, she rejects the use of a lingua franca.
Speaking in three of Switzerland's four national languages - French, Italian and Rumantsch - she urged cultural diversity.
"Language reflects a culture," she said. "We mustn't choose the easy way by using a so-called universal language to communicate."
"We are lucky to be at the centre of Europe, at the crossroads of three cultures," she explained. "This is a unique situation which we must preserve at all costs."
Two representatives of French-speaking cantons will preside over Switzerland's main political institutions. While Maury Pasquier heads the House of Representatives, Anton Cottier was chosen by 43 votes out of 44 as new president of the Senate.
The Christian Democrat, 58, succeeds Françoise Saudan, a Radical from canton Geneva.
Cottier, a Fribourg lawyer, pleaded for increased dialogue among the Swiss.
"Social peace is our most precious asset," he said. "If it's threatened, it's the whole of the country which then suffers, because social peace and national cohesion go hand in hand.
swissinfo with agencies
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