Swiss newspapers have welcomed parliament's decision to elect Ueli Maurer, a representative of the hardline faction of the rightwing Swiss People's Party.This content was published on December 11, 2008 - 09:17
But the press warned Maurer that he must respect the cabinet's principle of collegiality or suffer the same fate as party colleague, Christoph Blocher, who parliament refused to re-elect last year.
The Zurich Tages-Anzeiger newspaper called Maurer's election to the cabinet "a last chance" for the People's Party.
Having all the important parties represented in the cabinet where they can exercise influence is a criterion for Switzerland's success, the Tages-Anzeiger commented. "That's why a majority elected this People's Party politician to the cabinet, even though he stands fully behind the ideology of his party."
However, the newspaper added: "Maurer must now prove that he can work with people who hold different opinions, agree to compromises and be willing to represent these to the public."
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) and Bern-based Bund agreed with the Tages-Anzeiger, saying the new cabinet minister is "on probation".
"The election is a step towards the reconstitution of 'Helvetian' normalcy," the NZZ said. "The narrow outcome is an indication that in future parliament will not simply wave through official party candidates."
"Maurer's election was right because it partially restores the framework of collegiality," the Bund said in its commentary. "It's important for the legitimacy and the authority of the government that it consist of members of the strongest parties."
Stroke of luck
Maurer was elected by a margin of just one vote. The Bund added that even though his election made sense, Maurer's sobering result was a "stroke of luck", which should make him aware of his duty to support the decisions of the entire cabinet and put the interests of the country ahead of those of his party.
The other Bern newspaper, Berner Zeitung, agreed, arguing that Maurer must make a "convincing appearance as defence minister, but primarily as a member of the government, or parliament will not hesitate to send him packing in three years' time when the entire cabinet comes up for re-election".
Blick on its front page printed a close-up picture of the new defence minister putting on an army helmet. "Fasten your helmet, Ueli" is the tabloid's advice.
The Blick editorial agreed with other papers that Maurer was a "cabinet minister on probation" but said that, through the vote, parliament had sent clear messages to the cabinet and People's Party.
The first was a clear rejection of the rightwing group's figurehead and former cabinet minister Christoph Blocher, who was put forward by the People's Party, along with Maurer, as an official candidate. The second message was its recognition that the party deserves at least one cabinet seat, and third was that parliament had decided to elect a hardliner.
The French-language Le Matin also said parliament was wise to give the country's strongest party a place back in the cabinet.
The Tribune de Genève agreed: "It may seem a great paradox of the Swiss system that the accession of Ueli Maurer to the government constitutes good news...[but] a certain democratic logic has been respected and a portion of institutional stability returned."
Le Temps questioned whether the man who led the People's Party campaigns of a "brutal or nauseating" kind could adhere to the cabinet's principle of collegiality.
"Far from having dispelled all doubts, he will have to deal with the enormous expectations placed on him by his party, itself shaken by conflicting currents.
"He could suffer the same fate as Christoph Blocher if he fails to respect the rules of the game."
swissinfo, Dale Bechtel
Ueli Maurer was born on December 1, 1950 in Wetzikon near Zurich. He trained in commerce and accountancy. In 1994 he became head of the Zurich farmers' association.
He started his political career in 1978 in local politics in the village of Hinwil in canton Zurich. He was elected to the cantonal parliament five years later.
In 1991 he moved up to national politics becoming a parliamentarian in the House of Representatives.
He has suffered some political setbacks: in 1991 he failed to be elected to the Zurich local government, beaten by the current Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger.
In 2007 he was not elected to the Senate.
In 2008 Maurer gave up the party presidency in favour of heading the Zurich faction.
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