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Poll shows support split for cabinet nominees

Zurich parliamentarian Rita Fuhrer came out as the top choice among the poll's People's Party nominees

(Keystone)

A poll has shed light on which candidate the public believes should be nominated this week as the new cabinet representative of the rightwing Swiss People's Party.

The party will pick a successor to outgoing Defence Minister Samuel Schmid on November 27 from among nominations made by party sections. Cabinet elections follow on December 10.

According to a joint poll published Sunday by the Matin Dimanche and SonntagsBlick newspapers, Zurich parliamentarian Rita Fuhrer was the overall preferred candidate, backed by 15.9 per cent of respondents.

She was marginally - 1.4 per cent – ahead of party figurehead Christoph Blocher, who is also in the running.

The poll found that more than two-thirds of 1,055 respondents did not want the former justice minister to be re-elected to cabinet.

Meanwhile party president Toni Brunner confirmed on Sunday that they were considering a double ticket for the cabinet post because of Blocher's thin chances of being re-elected.

Controversial choice

Brunner told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that Blocher's candidacy offered tactical advantages and a double ticket was "an option".

He ruled out the possibility of Blocher withdrawing from the race and said it remained open who could run with him, although there were "three or four" suitable candidates.

"We could thereby prove that we have a large palette of personalities," said fellow People's Party parliamentarian Ulrich Giezendanner in supporting the measure.

Blocher remains a controversial choice. Parliament refused to re-elect him to cabinet last December, fuelling long-running divisions between the conservative nationalist wing of the party, linked to Blocher, and moderates.

The conflict resulted in the exclusion of the party's Graubünden chapter in June after it refused to eject Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf – who the party had earlier accused of colluding with the centre-left Social Democrats to take Blocher's place in the government.

Schmid and allies decided to break away from the national party as a result and went on to form a new party, the Conservative Democrats.

Differences

The cabinet nominations have highlighted differences between the regional party sections.

The Zurich branch of the party signalled its strong support for Blocher's return to cabinet by naming him its sole candidate on Tuesday. It is a sign that the party does not want a change of direction, Zurich branch president Ueli Maurer said, adding that the name of Blocher was integral to the party.

Other People's Party nominees are parliamentary group leader Caspar Baader (Basel Country), Adria Amstutz and Andrew Aebi (Bern), Thomas Hurter and Hannes Germann (Schaffhausen), Jean-Claude Mermoud (Vaud) and Erich Hess (Young People's Party).

According to the newspaper poll, all were far behind the party front-runners, with Amstutz the next favourite candidate at 7.4 per cent.

More than 50 per cent of those polled in the survey said Schmid's vacant cabinet seat should once again be occupied by the People's Party. Just over a quarter said the seat should go to the Green Party, and 13.5 per cent it should be taken up by the new Conservative Democrats.

Last week the Green Party put forward Luc Recordon for the seat, saying they didn't want to see Blocher "or one of his clones" fill the gap.

Blocher himself has said he preferred not to stand but would step up if called upon by the party.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The political make-up of the Swiss cabinet changed in 2003 after more than 40 years with two representatives each from the Christian Democrats, the Radicals and the Social Democrats and one member of the Swiss People's Party.

Five years ago the People's Party increased its share of the vote and won an additional seat at the expense of the Christian Democrats.

People's Party figurehead Christoph Blocher became justice minister, but parliament refused to confirm him in December 2007. It elected instead Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

The move led to a drawn-out row between hardliners and moderates inside the party, including the banning of the Graubünden cantonal party chapter.

Defence Minister Samuel Schmid is stepping down, leaving a vacant seat in cabinet elections on December 10.

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Newspaper poll

Results of the poll commissioned by the Matin Dimanche and SonntagsBlick newspapers were published on Sunday.

Austrian online polling agency Marketagent.com says 1,055 people took part in the survey from November 17-20. There is an estimated 3.5% margin of error in the results.

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