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Online expert links up with conservatives

Rickli also sat in the Zurich cantonal parliament for a while

(Keystone)

Natalie Rickli is one of some 70 new parliamentarians who have just completed their first week of the winter session in the capital, Bern.

The 31-year-old member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party says she is proof that her party is not just "a club of old men", as it is often portrayed in the media.

Rickli represents Zurich in parliament. She is keen to fight for her political aims, and wants Switzerland to stay out of the European Union.

"The highlight for me was the swearing-in ceremony on Monday. It was moving and made me aware of the responsibility I have as a parliamentarian," Rickli said.

She describes the first few days in the capital as interesting and extremely busy. The media kept her on her toes and left hardly any time for work.

"A new chapter in my life has begun and I'm looking forward to contributing to the political discussions in parliamentary committees," she adds.

Rickli was given a taste of parliamentary debate when the House of Representatives discussed a proposal to decriminalise cannabis. A vote is expected next week.

She says supporters and opponents argued along the expected lines on an issue which, because of its complexity, requires measures that go beyond those now under consideration.

"I will not support the initiative," says Rickli, who publicly admits to having smoked pot, like many other young people in Switzerland.

Atypical?

The young blonde with a professional background in the internet business is not a typical representative of the People's Party, but this is not really an issue for her.

"I have been a party member for many years and it's has never been a problem. The media are misrepresenting the People's Party as a club of old men."

She says there are many young members who are successful and give the party a different face in public.

Traditionally the People's Party is perceived as representing the rural population and the small-business community.

Rickli says she shares the political aims of her more seasoned and predominantly male colleagues.

She pledges to fight for a private media sector and is opposed to advertising bans.

"I will contribute to such debates as I have practical know-how in this field."

Global – national

Rickli is highly critical of the European Union and its bureaucracy in Brussels.

She sees no contradiction between the increasingly globalised world of business, including the media sector, and her political conviction.

"Switzerland has to remain outside the EU," she says.

Other countries admire Switzerland is for its independence, its system of direct democracy and its freedom, she argues.

Rickli knows about the fascination of travelling the world and meeting other people. Members of her family live in New Zealand.

She is a promoter of English as a first foreign language in Swiss schools - not least because it is the language of business and therefore useful for pupils to learn at an early stage.

When it comes to football, one of Rickli's hobbies, her heart beats for an Italian club. She has a season ticket for AC Milan and tries to see her team play in home games.

She finds it difficult to have the same enthusiasm for the Swiss national team but hopes they will win their matches at the 2008 European Championships co-hosted by Switzerland and neighbouring Austria.

"If they don't win, I can still support Italy," she says.

swissinfo, Urs Geiser and Alexander Künzle

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives (also referred to as the National Council) is one of two parliamentary chambers. Its 200 members are elected directly ...

In brief

Rickli is one of 62 members of the People's Party, the biggest group in the House of Representatives.

She joined the party in 1996 and has been active on a local level in her home town of Winterthur.

Earlier this year she was elected to the cantonal parliament of canton Zurich. She is also a member of the isolationist group, Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland.

Rickli, who is 31 years old, trained as office employee and later switched to marketing and communication. She currently works as product manager for an internet agency.

end of infobox

Elections 2007

Senate

Christian Democratic Party: 15 seats
Radical Party: 12 seats
Social Democratic Party: 9 seats
Swiss People's Party: 7 seats
Green Party: 2 seats
Others: 1 seat

Total: 46 seats

House of Representatives

Swiss People's Party: 62 seats
Social Democratic Party: 43 seats
Christian Democratic Party: 31 seats
Radical Party: 31 seats
Green Party: 20 seats
Others: 13 seats

Total: 200 seats

end of infobox


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