Thirty-eight parliamentarians are bidding their farewells to parliament, choosing not to stand for re-election on October 19.This content was published on October 3, 2003 - 18:59
swissinfo caught up with Vreni Spoerry, Claude Frey, Rosmarie Dormann and Ruedi Baumann just before their departure from Swiss political life.
Vreni Spoerry, regarded as one of the most influential female politicians, has debated and argued in parliament for more than 20 years.
During her time, the member of the Radical Party has noticed that the tone of parliamentary debates has become harsher. The Right and the Left attack each other more fiercely than they used to, she says, with issues on asylum and Europe most likely to sour the atmosphere.
“Opinion over these issues is not only divided within the centre-right parties but also between the German- and French-speaking politicians,” Spoerry says.
Rosmarie Dormann, a Christian Democrat from canton Lucerne, who is ending her career in politics after 16 years, agrees with Spoerry. She attributes changes in parliament to greater time pressure.
“Everything has become more hectic and we have to correct and revise [proposals] continuously,” Dormann told swissinfo.
Ruedi Baumann, the former chairman of the Green party who spent 12 years in the House of Representatives, blames the Swiss People’s Party for the more hostile atmosphere in parliament.
“Debating has become more of an exchange of buzzwords,” he said. “Proper political discussions don’t really exist anymore.”
Claude Frey of the Radical Party also believes politics has changed significantly during his 24 years in parliament.
“The way we do politics is completely different. In 1979, ten years before the fall of the Berlin wall, we were confronted with other problems.”
Nowadays, parliamentarians are faced with more complex issues than before and very few manage to stay on top of them all.
“[At the beginning] I had to learn to talk to experts - who know more about certain subjects than I do - before making my decisions,” Rosmarie Dormann told swissinfo. “I am convinced that specialised commissions are very important.”
Good old times
Frey feels nostalgic about the “good old times” in politics.
“Thirty or 50 years ago, politicians were not as well informed as they are today but at least they knew how to do politics,” he argues.
“Today parliamentarians work 60 hours or more per week, which is a great sacrifice,” Frey adds. “But it’s also a very interesting, enriching experience.”
Dormann also laments the fact that she had very little spare time over the past few years but she values her years as a parliamentarian. “But I learnt a lot and I was also able to give something back.”
Frey is looking forward to new challenges in his life. “My life is going to change and I will find new opportunities.”
But Spoerry is finding saying goodbye more difficult.
“I was able to combine all my hobbies by doing politics: reading, writing, finding solutions and getting to the heart of a problem. I hope I’ll find to fill all my spare time.”
Baumann and Dormann are planning to get back to their professional lives. Baumann, an organic farmer, plans to move to France because he thinks that farmers have a better life in Switzerland’s neighbouring country.
“Prospects for farmers are much better within the European Union than in Switzerland,” he admitted.
swissinfo, Christian Raaflaub (translation: Billi Bierling)
Ruedi Baumann of the Green Party was a member of the House of Representatives for 12 years. From 1997 to 2001, he was the chairman of his party.
Rosmarie Dormann of the Christian Democrats represented canton Lucerne for 16 years. The 56-year-old made her name as a campaigner for reforms against racism.
Claude Frey of the Radical Party has been a parliamentarian for 24 years and was speaker of the House of Representatives. He ran for the succession of cabinet minister Jean-Pascal Delamuraz in 1998, but was beaten by Pascal Couchepin.
Vreni Spoerry of the Radicals spent 12 years in the House of Representatives and eight years in the Senate. The 65-year-old was also a board member of the former national carrier, Swissair.
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