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Forming government People’s Party finally nails finance minister job

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Maurer and Widmer-Schlumpf debate a point during the previous government.

(Keystone)

The post of finance minister was finally awarded to the conservative right People’s Party on Friday as Ueli Maurer was granted the mandate in a mini cabinet reshuffle. New minister Guy Parmelin will replace his party colleague as defence minister on January 1.

The remaining five cabinet ministers, who were all re-elected on Wednesday, have retained their former portfolios: Doris Leuthard in charge of environment, energy and transport; Johann Schneider-Ammann, who will also take on presidential duties next year, as economics minister; Simonetta Sommaruga as justice minister; Alain Berset looking after the health and pensions brief; and Didier Burkhalter as foreign minister.

But the biggest talking point was the appointment of Maurer to head the finance department. Despite being the largest political party in Switzerland this millennium and occupying at least one cabinet post for decades, the People’s Party has never had a member in charge of the nation’s finances.

Having seen banking secrecy crumble on Widmer-Schlumpf’s watch, Maurer will now take on the weighty responsibility of reforming Swiss corporate tax law.

The timing of Maurer’s succession is particularly poignant as he takes over from Widmer-Schlumpf, who was expelled from the People’s Party for accepting a place in cabinet against the wishes of the party hierarchy.

Widmer-Schlumpf’s resignation, followed by the election of Parmelin as a second People’s Party minister, has restored the so-called “magic formula” of cabinet post distribution among political parties according to size.

Parmelin inherits from Maurer the ongoing task of reorganising the country’s armed forces – a job made more complicated by a referendum vote last year that rejected the planned purchase of Gripen aircraft to replace ageing airforce fighters.

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