Peoples Party makes proposal for cabinet reform

The right-wing Swiss People's Party has been giving more details of a controversial proposal for the cabinet to be directly elected by the people rather than by parliament as at present. The issue has sharply divided politicians.

This content was published on January 11, 2000 - 10:13

The right-wing Swiss People's Party has been giving more details of a controversial proposal for the cabinet to be directly elected by the people rather than by parliament as at present. The issue has sharply divided politicians.

The proposals could lead to a change in the line-up of the seven-member cabinet, said People's Party member of the House of Representatives, Christoph Mörgeli, at a news conference in Berne. The measures, he said, would strengthen the principle of direct democracy, electrify Swiss politics and counter voter apathy.

Under the proposals, all seven cabinet members would be elected by popular vote for a four-year term at the same time as national elections were held. The French-speaking cantons and Italian-speaking Ticino would have the power to elect two ministers. The president would continue to be elected by parliament to the largely ceremonial one-year post.

The party points to the separation of legislative and executive powers at cantonal level, where the people elect the cantonal executive.

The proposals, first raised last year, will be put to a party delegates' meeting in St. Gallen in April which will then decide whether to launch a popular initiative on the issue. Two similar initiatives, launched by the Social Democrats 60 years ago, ended in failure.

The Swiss People's Party's populist leader, Christoph Blocher, caused a storm when he raised the issue last year. He was immediately attacked by the economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, a member of the centre-right Radical Party.

Opponents of the People's Party see the proposals as a further attempt to discredit the political establishment and gain popular support.

The party failed in an attempt in mid-December to win a second seat in cabinet. Blocher tried to unseat a Social Democrat minister, saying the October 24 general elections, which saw his party emerge as the second strongest in the House of Representatives, entitled the party to claim a second ministerial post.

If he had been successful, the move would have ended the 40-year-old "magic formula" system of government under which the Social Democrats, Radicals and centre-right Christian Democrats have each held two seats in the cabinet, and the People's Party one.

From staff and wire reports


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