Low-key politician puts compromise first

Yoshiko Kusano

She is a typical Swiss politician and stands for many of the values of a political system based on compromise and respect.

This content was published on October 3, 2008 minutes

Corina Eichenberger, who has been in the job for one year, looks back over the autumn parliamentary session, which was marked by heated discussions over the army and the fate of the defence minister.

Her seat is almost in the middle of the semi-circle of the parliamentary chamber. It's also where many of her colleagues in the House of Representatives position her politically.

Eichenberger herself appears to notice the coincidence for the first time and smiles.

"I have a fundamental problem if one side, be it in politics or elsewhere in life, wins too much influence and power," she says.

Eichenberger strives for balance and likes the role as mediator and lawyer. "Maybe it is because my birthday is in October and I'm Libra," she muses.

There could be some logic in holding the stars responsible for her membership in the centre-right Radical Party.

But she says it was both the values of liberalism and openness for which the party often stands and the family tradition that influenced her choice.


Her political career began like most other part-time parliamentarians in Switzerland by her deciding to get involved in the community.

The mother of two served on a local school board and was approached by the Radicals who asked whether she was interested in running for the Aargau cantonal parliament.

"This is where I really got into it," she said. Eichenberger moved up in her group and earned the respect of the other parties, culminating in her election as speaker of the assembly for a one-year term.

Her election to the federal parliament 12 months ago made her life more complicated but did not change her political and personal convictions as other colleagues confirm.

She does not want to be seen as simply a representative of interest groups and her credo reflects a tenet of Swiss mentality.

"History shows that our multi-cultural country survived because people were able to strike compromises and seek consensus, based on respect for other opinions."

Eichenberger says it is quite a step to move from a regional to a national level and she was overwhelmed at the beginning, not least because of the media presence. By now she knows her way around.

"It's a great experience and I enjoy the opportunity to delve into a broad variety of issues. But you have to specialise to be able to keep up."


Her party dispatched her to the security committee dealing with army issues. Security matters have also been high on the agenda of the autumn session, which ended on Friday. But she has mixed feelings about the past three-weeks.

"It was hardly a successful session, when you consider how parliament discussed the armament programme. It is disappointing to see how the rightwing and the left plotted against the defence ministry and jeopardised the army as an institution."

Eichenberger says she prefers factual debates.

"I know it is less spectacular. I'm not after headlines and the limelight, I'd rather achieve something without making a lot of noise."

She brushes aside comments that her reputation has not spread to some of her colleagues in parliament.

The 54 year old is fully engaged in the challenge of organising the activities of a lawyer, parliamentarian and a mother. She is also drawn to the possibility of future work outside the country.

"I'm too old to dream of a cabinet post, but an activity in an international organisation very much appeals to me."

swissinfo, Urs Geiser

In brief

Eichenberger sits in the House of Representatives for the centre-right Radical party and is one of more than 50 new parliamentarians elected a year ago.

Her party (including the Liberals) has 47 seats in both chambers. The Radicals were the founding fathers of modern-day Switzerland in the 19th century.

They are now only the third-largest group behind the rightwing Swiss People's Party, the centre-left Social Democrats and ahead of the centre-right Christian Democrats.

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Corina Eichenberger

Eichenberger, a 54-year-old lawyer and mediator, is an expert in corporate and family law. She works for a Basel-based law firm and is a mother of two.

She was a member of parliament in canton Aargau for 14 years before she was elected to the federal parliament in 2007.

Her hobbies include travelling, opera, literature and art.

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Swiss Abroad

The expatriate community acts as messenger and bridge-builder between Switzerland and the world, according to Eichenberger.

She acknowledges the interest of the Swiss Abroad in a seat in parliament but is sceptical of a quota system or guaranteed seats.

She favours the introduction of electronic voting, but stresses it is crucial to find a forgery-proof system.

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad has put e-voting and a representation in parliament high on its agenda.

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