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Merz elected president

Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz has been elected Swiss president for 2009, and head of Switzerland's seven-member cabinet.

In parliament on Wednesday, the 66-year-old received 185 out of 209 valid votes. He will succeed Radical Party colleague Pascal Couchepin.

His Christian Democrat cabinet colleague, Doris Leuthard, was elected vice-president.

The finance minister suffered a heart attack in September and underwent quintuple bypass surgery. He returned to work at the beginning of November.

In 2007 Interior Minister Couchepin was elected president with 197 votes; Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey of the Social Democratic Party managed 147 votes in 2006.