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Parliament through the eyes of a crime expert

(RDB)

The winter session in parliament was marked by discussions on a financial rescue package and the election of a new defence minister.

But parliamentarian Daniel Jositsch highlights a decision to ease a ban on the import of goods from the European Union and rejection of a government plan for extended powers to tackle suspected terrorists.

The 43-year-old is a member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, a professor of criminal law with experience in the business world as a legal adviser, and a senior officer in the Swiss army.

So it might come as a surprise that two much-publicised decisions by parliament are not at the top of his mind when he looks back over the three-week session, which ended on Friday.

"Lifting the import ban on goods which benefit from patent protection is personally a major step. As a young lawyer, I worked on a case which helped trigger the political discussions," he told swissinfo.

Supporters say the move will allow consumers in Switzerland to buy imported goods more cheaply, although pharmaceuticals remain protected by the import ban.

Also noteworthy for Jositsch was approval by the House of Representatives of a United Nations convention aimed at combating corruption.

Bailout

He is far less convinced of parliament's decision to agree a multi-billion franc credit for the leading UBS bank.

"I could not support the bailout package because all our additional proposals, including salary caps for top managers, were thrown out," he said.

"Unfortunately I'm convinced it won't be the last time that parliament will have to discuss financial rescue measures."

The centre-left party was also defeated in its attempt to prevent the election to the government of Ueli Maurer, an outspoken former president of the rightwing Swiss People's Party. Maurer has in the past shocked his opponents with offensive and even racist comments.

But Jositsch is keen to close this chapter. "I know Ueli Maurer on a personal basis. I'm sure my party will get along with him fine."

Law and order

Jositsch himself has not escaped criticism – even by some members of his own party – in the past. He has been accused of being a hardline law-and-order supporter, always a bit too keen to seek the media limelight.

"There is a discrepancy between the media's perception and reality," he says, adding that he is in line with the party four times out of five. He also denies that his political agenda is driven by the needs of journalists looking for good headlines.

He considers himself a representative of the liberal wing within the Social Democrats, and says he is supported by both the party and the grassroots.

"The party recently approved a policy paper on security, which proves that I very much conform with the official programme," he said.

During last year's election campaign Jositsch called for tougher measures against juvenile delinquents.

It is not least this perceived hardline approach which is welcomed by a parliamentarian on the other side of the political spectrum.

"It would be so much easier to cooperate with the Social Democrats if they all had as much common sense as Jositsch," said Oskar Freysinger from the People's Party.

"He raises issues others in his party have tried to avoid. He is media-savvy but you need the media if you go against the mainstream."

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 ...

Ambitions

How hard is it to fight a lone battle? "I'm not in politics to have an easy time," Jositsch says, adding that he is willing to fight for the rights of victims and the underprivileged.

And suddenly a hint of self-irony enters the conversation when he explains his political ambitions.

"I'm happy as a part-time politician. I'd like to do a term or two here in Bern. But it is not the end of my life if one day I no longer sit in parliament."

And what does he make of Freysinger's compliment? Too late – Jositsch has rushed off with a quick wave of his hand. He's expected at a meeting...

swissinfo, Urs Geiser

In brief

Daniel Jositsch was elected to the House of Representatives as a member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party in Zurich in October 2007.

His party has 52 seats in the two chambers, making it the second-largest group in the 246-strong parliament.

Jositsch, who also sits in Zurich's cantonal parliament, is a professor of criminal law at Zurich University.

The 43-year-old lived in Colombia for several years before returning to Switzerland in 1995.

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Swiss Abroad

Jositsch says it is in the interest of Switzerland to allow expatriates to keep close ties with their country of origin.

He acknowledges calls by the Swiss Abroad community for a formal representation in parliament, but he is against a guaranteed seat. A personality from within Switzerland could act as a delegate for the expatriate community, according to Jositsch.

He backs moves to facilitate e-voting and believes that online media will gain in importance also for expatriates around the world.

But he says print products, including the Swiss Review, have an important role to play in informing expatriates about their political rights in Switzerland.

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