The speaker of the Swiss House of Representatives, Jean-Philippe Maitre, has announced he is to step down on March 1 for health reasons.This content was published on February 18, 2005 - 16:27
Maitre, a member of the centre-right Christian Democratic party from Geneva, is also giving up his position as a parliamentarian, after doctors discovered that he had a brain tumour.
Aged 55, Maitre was elected to chair the House of Representatives for a year on November 29.
But he lost consciousness in his Geneva office on December 21 and was immediately taken to hospital.
Maitre has been undergoing therapy since then and is due to undergo more treatment from April for a period of six months.
A statement from the Swiss parliament on Friday said that Maitre was going into the second phase of treatment with "great confidence".
However, he realised that because of the length of the treatment, it was not appropriate that he should stay in the position as speaker, which is considered the highest public office in Switzerland.
His official functions have been taken on till now by the two deputy speakers of the House of Representatives, Claude Janiak from the centre-left Social Democrats and Christine Egerszegi from the centre-right Radical Party.
Maitre’s successor as speaker of the house could be chosen during the three-week spring session of parliament due to begin on February 28.
The Christian Democrats have set up a working group to put forward a candidate in the first half of the session.
Maitre, who is a lawyer, succeeded Max Binder from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party as speaker.
He was the tenth representative from canton Geneva to take the office.
Married with three children, Maitre was elected to the House of Representatives in 1983. At the beginning of his national career, he was head of Geneva’s economics department from 1985 to 1987 and led the Christian Democrat parliamentary group from 1998 to 2002.
The heads of other Swiss political parties have regretted Maitre’s resignation and there seems no opposition to another member of the Christian Democratic Party taking over the chair of the house.
The Social Democratic Party’s spokesman, Jean-Philippe Jeannerat, said the party was "sad and shocked" by the resignation and wanted to express its solidarity with Maitre.
He said the party had respect for Maitre, even though it was not always politically on the same wavelength.
Simon Jäggi from the Swiss People’s Party commented that it was "clear" that the Christian Democrats were entitled to name someone to take over Maitre’s position as speaker of the house.
Radical Party spokesman Christian Weber echoed their comments. "We hope that he will recover from the illness and wish him all the best," he said.
swissinfo with agencies
Maitre was elected a member of Geneva’s cantonal parliament at the age of 24.
He was president of the centre-right Christian Democrats in Geneva from 1981 to 1984.
He became a member of the federal parliament in 1983.
From 1998 to 2002, Maitre was head of the Christian Democratic parliamentary group.
He became speaker of the House of Representatives in November, 2004.
In the last 100 years, only three speakers of the House of Representatives or Senate have had to be replaced before the end of their terms in office.
In 1991, the speaker of the House, Max Affolter from the Radical Party, died as a result of a brain tumour.
The parliament of Obwalden in 1982 did not re-elect the incumbent speaker of the Senate Jost Dillier (Christian Democrat) to the Senate.
In 1977, Christian Democrat Hans Wyer resigned as speaker of the House of Representatives after election to the government of canton Valais.
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