Blocher announces departure from parliament

Blocher has been a dominant figure on Switzerland 's political scene for more than 30 years Keystone

The figurehead and strongman of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party has announced he will be leaving the House of Representatives at the end of May to focus on what he calls his “political priorities”.

This content was published on May 9, 2014 - 11:59
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Christoph Blocher, who is also a former justice minister, made the announcement on Friday via his Teleblocher website and in a letter to his party (see below).

The 73-year old politician said the parliamentary process had become less efficient and was too time-consuming, except for those who considered themselves professional politicians.

Since being re-elected to parliament in 2011, Blocher has missed more than a third of the votes held, making him the worst offender in the House.

The billionaire businessman added that Switzerland’s freedom, well-being and security were under threat because the administration, the government, the majority of parliament and the Federal Court were prepared to surrender the country’s independence to the European Union.

Blocher, a strong advocate of keeping the country separate from the EU, said his future political activity would focus on defending two main points.

He said he will fight against a proposed institutional framework agreement with the EU and against what he calls manoeuvres to get around the anti-immigration initiative accepted by a slim majority of voters in February.

Experts say Blocher's resignation from parliament is unlikely to have a major impact on Swiss politics. They say his move could be motivated by tactical or personal reasons. 

Conservative leader

He will remain a vice-president of the People’s Party despite resigning his political mandate and will continue to take part in meetings of the party’s parliamentary group.

Blocher is arguably the most prominent conservative Swiss politician of the past few decades. He has a been leading figure in the rise of People's Party since the 1990s.

He joined parliament in 1979 and sat in the House of Representatives until his election to the cabinet in 2003 where he served as justice minister.

However, he was voted out four years later which led to a split in his party.

Blocher won a seat in the House in 2011 but failed to be elected to the Senate.

He is also a co-founder of the hardline Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland group.

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