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New speaker urges conviction-led parliament

Büttiker (left) and Janiak were elected parliamentary speakers on Monday

(Keystone)

The two chambers of the Swiss parliament have elected new speakers at the start of parliament's winter session.

Claude Janiak will preside over debates in the House of Representatives for the next 12 months, while the work of the Senate will be overseen by Rolf Büttiker.

Janiak, from canton Basel Country, was elected on Monday with 154 votes out of 177.

He takes over the post from Thérèse Meyer, whose term ended on the same day.

The lawyer, who has double Swiss-Polish nationality, said his aim was to be a good coach for the parliament in the coming months.

In his first address to the House as speaker, Janiak also called on his fellow parliamentarians to follow their convictions rather than their political interests.

He entered local politics in the mid 1970s, and joined the House of Representatives in 1999 as a deputy from canton Basel Country.

No limelight

He is considered a particularly trustworthy parliamentarian from the moderate wing of the centre-left Social Democrats and someone who does not seek the media limelight.

He made a name for himself in recent years as a supporter of failed plans to ease the citizenship procedure for young foreigners and of proposals to legalise cannabis consumption.

Janiak, who has made no secret of his homosexuality, also made the headlines two years ago when he strongly criticised the Catholic Church for calling on voters to reject a plan to allow same-sex partnerships.

Minorities

The Senate, the other parliamentary chamber, confirmed its new speaker, Rolf Büttiker, to replace his predecessor, Bruno Frick.

Büttiker, a member of the centre-right Radical Party from canton Solothurn, took 43 of the 44 votes.

He has been a member of parliament for 18 years.

The business consultant is considered a lobbyist for the power industry and meat producers.

In his inaugural speech on Monday Büttiker underlined the importance of the Senate for the small rural cantons and the linguistic minorities in Switzerland's political system.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Claude Janiak, a member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, has been named speaker of the House of Representatives for the next 12 months.
He will also preside over joint sessions of both parliamentary chambers.
The Senate elected Rolf Büttiker, a member of the centre-right Radical Party, as its speaker.
Parliamentarians in Switzerland are part-time politicians and keep their jobs.
The main political parties take turns with allocating the prestigious post of speaker.

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