People's Party racked by internal strife

The People's Party appears to be in disarray following a torrent of criticism of its style and policies from within the party itself. In the latest blow, Myrtha Welti (pictured) is the second former secretary-general to leave the party on Monday.

This content was published on March 20, 2000 - 07:38

The right-wing People's Party appears to be in disarray following a torrent of criticism of its style and policies from within the party itself. In the latest blow, Myrtha Welti (pictured) is the second former secretary-general, along with Max Friedli, to leave the party on Monday.

Welti said she was resigning because of the party's provocative behaviour. She said it had clearly turned its back on consensus politics in favour of a more confrontational style which has provoked the ire of party members as well as fellow government parties. She said the party was more of an opposition than a government party.

Welti also argued that the current style of politics being practised by the party contributed to the rejection of almost all applications for Swiss citizenship in a controversial vote with racial overtones in the town of Emmen last week.

For his part, Friedli, who's now head of the federal transport office, has not gone so far as to leave the party but is suspending his membership. He 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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