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Koch bows out of politics

Ursula Koch

(Keystone)

The former president of Switzerland's Social Democratic Party, Ursula Koch, has formally announced her retirement from politics. Her departure comes just weeks after she stepped down from the helm of the party, following bitter infighting at the top.

The Social Democrats will be hoping that Koch's departure from the House of Representatives will finally herald a new beginning for the party. In recent months, internal bickering has split the leadership, at a time when the party's position at the top of the Swiss political ladder is increasingly threatened by its conservative rivals.

The internal conflict came out into the open in February when acting chairman, Pierre Aeby, and another member of the executive, Jacqueline Fehr, urged Koch to resign as party leader.

In her resignation letter, Koch claimed she was stepping down for health reasons. But insiders said she had been the target of "mobbing" by other party members intent on forcing her out.

Although Koch enjoyed strong support among the Social Democrats' rank and file, her leadership style was heavily criticised within the upper echelons of the party.

Speculation will now focus on the future of the party's secretary-general, Jean-Francois Steiert. He was one of Koch's main opponents, and indicated that he too might step down, when she resigned as party leader on April 15.

Koch's seat is the House of Representatives will be taken by the Zurich parliamentarian, Barbara Marty Kälin.

swissinfo with agencies

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