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Leuenberger elected 2006 Swiss president

Leuenberger and Calmy-Rey after learning the outcome of the vote

(Keystone)

Parliament has elected the transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, as next year's Swiss president.

Leuenberger received 159 of 225 valid votes for the largely ceremonial post, which is shared among the seven cabinet ministers on a one-year, rotating basis.

The 59-year-old Social Democrat from Zurich has been a cabinet minister since 1995 when he replaced Otto Stich.

Leuenberger is the minister in charge of transport, energy, communications and environment and will take over the job at the beginning of January from the defence minister, Samuel Schmid.

He served a first term as Swiss president in 2001, which was marked by a series of tragic events, including the terrorist attacks in the United States, a devastating fire in the Gotthard road tunnel, a shooting in Zug's cantonal parliament and the grounding of the former national carrier, Swissair.

His nomination this time around was formally opposed by the rightwing Swiss People's Party, but as the party only has 63 seats in both houses of parliament, the move had little chance.

People's Party leaders said that Leuenberger should focus on tackling the difficulties in his ministry and that he did not have sufficient time for the presidency.

Consensus

Following his election, Leuenberger admitted that one of the biggest problems he faced was preserving the consensus form of government.

In recent months, cabinet ministers have criticised each other, breaking the unwritten rule that any disagreement should not be made public in order to uphold the fundamental tenet of the four-party body to reach consensus.

Leuenberger has often been at loggerheads with the People's Party justice minister, Christoph Blocher.

He said the concept of collegiality required the will of all of the seven ministers to be successful.

The foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, who is the other Social Democratic representative in the cabinet, will be vice-president next year.

Both will retain their portfolios.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Moritz Leuenberger has been elected Swiss president for 2006.
The president is chosen from the seven cabinet ministers.
The candidate is elected by parliament for a one-year term.
Tradition dictates that the presidency should rotate according to seniority: each minister serves under the presidency of those who joined the cabinet before him or her, before taking on the role.
The role of the president is mainly ceremonial. He or she also chairs cabinet meetings.

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