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Mother tongue of new minister divides Swiss

Switzerland's German, French and Italian-speaking communities are at odds over whether a native French speaker should succeed outgoing interior minister Pascal Couchepin.

This content was published on July 16, 2009 - 16:02

The results of a survey found a majority of German speakers saying language is not an issue when choosing a successor to French-speaking Couchepin, while Swiss French and Swiss Italians beg to differ.

The findings were published in three Sunday newspapers, SonntagsBlick, Le Matin Dimanche and Il Caffè - one in each of Switzerland's main language regions.

Nearly 60 per cent of German speakers – who make up about two-thirds of the population, said it would not matter if the new cabinet minister was one of their own kind.

However, nearly 70 per cent of those asked in French-speaking Switzerland, and 55 per cent of Swiss-Italians said they did not want to see another German speaker voted into the cabinet.

And 42 per cent of everyone surveyed said they would prefer parliament to elect a woman, regardless of her mother tongue. Twenty-two per cent want a man while 32 per cent said gender was unimportant.

According to the constitution, parliament has a duty to ensure not only that the main political parties are represented in cabinet but that there is also linguistic and regional balance.

Currently, the government consists of five German speakers, two Swiss French and no Swiss Italians. There is greater gender equality with four men and three women.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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