The Swiss press has spoken of a historic change with the arrival of the rightwing Swiss People's Party figurehead, Christoph Blocher, in government.This content was published on December 11, 2003 - 08:24
Political motivations dominated the election, some papers pointed out, at the expense of the usual preoccupation with regional and gender representation.
Blocher’s election came as little surprise, but some papers feared consensus politics was under threat.
“The will of the people has been realised in one important respect – the People’s Party as the strongest party now has two members of government,” the Tages-Anzeiger declared.
Under the headline, “New formula for the Swiss”, the French-language daily, Le Temps, said the so-called Magic Formula - a power-sharing arrangement in place since 1959 - was dead.
The NZZ agreed, saying it had been replaced with a new form of government with a rightwing flavour.
“There is nothing magic about this, it is just an expression of the new political balance of power,” the paper commented.
For the Bern-based Bund, the election of Blocher was “right, although it caused uneasy feelings”.
Referring to fears among some Swiss that Blocher would not be able to compromise in government on issues he feels strongly about, Le Temps said that nobody knew how he would shape up as a cabinet minister.
It added Blocher’s election did not necessarily mean that consensus politics was dead.
The Tages-Anzeiger said the onus was now on Blocher to prove he could “assume political responsibility”.
Blocher’s arrival came at the expense of the Christian Democrat, Ruth Metzler.
The Tribune de Geneve said she was victim of her own party’s disloyalty.
Other papers too were critical of the Christian Democrats for allowing Metzler to be sacrificed.
“The Christian Democrats will enter history as the party that fought to the end to hold on to its seats and by its tactics ended a woman’s glittering career,” the Tages-Anzeiger sneered.
And the NZZ asked: “Why did the Christian Democrats not save Metzler – who represents women and youth - by recommending her for election instead of Deiss after Blocher had been voted in?”
The tabloid Blick pointed out the fact that the average age of the cabinet ministers had jumped by several years, and Samuel Schmid at 56 was now the youngest.
It also called on Blocher to live up to his promise, by putting his words into action. “What we need now is more growth and less unemployment,” Blick commented.
Much of the foreign press focussed on what they saw as a decisive step to the right in Swiss politics.
Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine said, following the election, Switzerland would become even more critical of the European Union and would "be even less tolerant of asylum seekers".
The British press, meanwhile, said the Swiss government’s shift to the right would likely cause friction with the EU, because of Blocher's hardline stance against joining.
Britain’s Guardian said “there was little doubt last night that the election of Mr Blocher, an avowed enemy of European integration, now means there is virtually no prospect of Switzerland joining the EU in the next decade”.
The British Financial Times also warned the People’s Party’s increasing influence in government would “lead to significantly greater difficulties in negotiations with Brussels on a range of issues, from asylum seekers to employment rights for citizens from EU accession countries”.
Describing Blocher as “ultranationalist”, the business daily added his insistence on preserving banking secrecy would probably bring clashes with those countries seeking to crack down on tax evasion.
The Independent also expected Blocher’s influence in government to hamper current negotiations over a second set of bilateral accords between the EU and Switzerland.
The International Herald Tribune pointed to Blocher's previous outspoken criticism of the government's more liberal policies when he was outside the government.
But, it added "it remains unclear whether he will be more restrained operating from within the government".
Christoph Blocher's election to the cabinet alters the balance of power in a government which has shared out seats in the same way for 44 years.
Blocher's People's Party now has two seats in the seven-member cabinet, which reflects its strong showing in October 19's parliamentary elections.
The press sees Blocher's election as necessary and justified, if a bit difficult to swallow.
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