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Leuenberger concerned about cabinet consensus

(Keystone)

President Moritz Leuenberger has mounted a strong defence of the system of collective responsibility and the principle of collegiality in the government.

Leuenberger, who finishes his term as president at the end of the year, said he would stand again in cabinet elections scheduled for December 2007.

He said the past 11 months had not always been easy but the current system had generally worked well.

He noted that he invested a lot of effort into keeping the multi-party cabinet together despite a series of provocations.

Leuenberger added that he would continue to fight for collective responsibility. He said under the Swiss system it was up to the entire seven-member cabinet to ensure national cohesion.

The president, who is elected for a one-year term, can not act alone to promote collegiality if individual cabinet members are too much involved in party politics, according to Leuenberger.

He did not elaborate. But several members, notably Justice Minister Christoph Blocher, on occasion violated the system of collective responsibility when they spoke out against joint cabinet decisions.

The 60-year-old Leuenberger said he had no intention to seek a change in his portfolio. But he made no mention whether he planned to stay in office for the full four-year term.

There has been speculation that the most senior cabinet member would hand in his resignation in order to attract additional media attention to his centre-left Social Democratic Party ahead of general elections in the second half of next year.

Leuenberger has served 11 years in the cabinet in charge of the transport, energy, environment and communications ministry.

International stage

Leuenberger said his second term as chairman of the cabinet had been fairly smooth compared with his first tenure as president in 2001 – the year that was marked by accidents, a deadly attack on a cantonal parliament and the demise of the national airline.

He said his aim over the past months had been to encourage young people to take an active interest in politics. As part of his other priority for 2006 he had visited several African countries, including an environment summit in Kenya earlier this month.

Leuenberger added contacts and cooperation on an international level had become increasingly important in 2006, notably because of Swiss membership of the United Nations. He described contacts with the European Union as "rather difficult".

Under the Swiss system cabinet ministers take turns at being Swiss president for a one-year period. The post is largely ceremonial and the president retains his portfolio.

swissinfo with agencies

Collective responsibility

The principle of collective responsibility is enshrined in law. The seven members of the government are obliged to take decisions collectively and ...

In brief

Moritz Leuenberger, 60, studied law before going into politics.

He has been a cabinet minister since 1995. Prior to that he had been a member of the cantonal government of Zurich. He was also representative for the centre-left Social Democratic Party in the federal parliament.

Leuenberger heads the environment, transport, energy and communications ministry.

He was Swiss president in 2001 and 2006.

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