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People's Party crisis deepens

The right-wing People's Party is in crisis following the eruption of internal differences into the open. In the latest blow to the party, its former secretary-general, Max Friedli (pictured), has suspended his membership.

This content was published on March 20, 2000 - 11:40

The right-wing People's Party is in crisis following the eruption of internal differences into the open. In the latest blow to the party, its former secretary-general, Max Friedli (pictured), has suspended his membership.

Friedli, who's now head of the federal transport office, said he no longer saw eye-to-eye with much of party policy, and accused the hardline Zurich wing of forcing its views on the rest of the party. The Zurich branch is led by the populist businessman, Christoph Blocher, one of Switzerland's most controversial politicians.

Friedli said he would observe developments over the coming months, to see where the party was heading and how the more liberal Bernese wing of party behaved.

He said he was particularly upset by the lukewarm attitude of many People's Party members towards the bilateral treaties with the European Union, which will be put to a nationwide referendum on May 21.

He added he was also unhappy with the party's opposition to military reforms put forward by their representative in the cabinet, the president and defence minister, Adolf Ogi, and that he was against a "reprehensible" effort to bypass parliament on people's initiatives.

The rebuff to the party comes hot on the heels of an attack on Blocher launched at the weekend by another party member, Lisbeth Fehr. Fehr, a member of the House of Representatives for his home territory of Zurich, launched an all-out attack on his political stance.

Last week, Blocher said the Social Democrats were closer to fascism than his own party and accused them of totalitarianism. Fehr retaliated, saying that the People's Party now showed totalitarian tendencies while accusing Blocher of surrounding himself with yes-men.

Fehr's comments echo sentiments expressed by the People's Party branch in Berne, who have criticised some of Blocher's proposals, notably the privatisation of social security and raising the age of retirement.

On Monday, the Bernese branch addressed a letter to the national organisation complaining of internal divisions in the party and demanding greater respect from the Zurich section.

swissinfo with agencies

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