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Right-wing party names two candidates for cabinet post

Candidates Roland Eberle and Rita Fuhrer

(Keystone)

The right-wing Swiss People's Party has named two candidates - Roland Eberle and Rita Fuhrer - to fill the cabinet post being vacated by the defence minister, Adolf Ogi, who is retiring at the end of the year.

The party's parliamentary faction met on Tuesday to select from a short-list of four candidates. The federal parliament will elect a successor to Ogi - a member of the People's Party - on December 6.

Fuhrer, who heads canton Zurich's police department, has the higher profile of the two candidates, and received most votes from the parliamentary group.

If she was elected, three of the seven cabinet members would be women. However, despite her efforts to distance herself from the party's populist figurehead, Christoph Blocher, she is seen as a representative of the Zurich-based hardline wing of the party.

She also suffers the disadvantage of being from Zurich, which is already represented in cabinet. Traditionally, a canton only has one member in cabinet.

The other candidate, Eberle, is a canton Thurgau politician with little experience of federal politics.

Their selection by the People's Party does not necessarily mean that one of them will be elected.

Analysts say it is quite possible that the three other government parties may band together and choose one of the two other People's Party representatives who were on the short-list.

The two People's Party members concerned are Christoffel Brändli, a member of the Senate from canton Graubünden, and another member of the Senate, Samuel Schmid, who comes from canton Bern which, in general, has represented the more liberal wing of the party against the hardliners of Zurich.

The other parties in government have made it clear they disapprove of the People's Party's policies on some issues, and in particular its "opposition" role within the collective responsibility cabinet.

But while they may try to give the People's Party a bloody nose on December 6, analysts say they're unlikely to attempt to tip the party out of government.

Under the "magic formula" system of government, which has ensured political stability for the past 41 years, one cabinet seat is reserved for the People's Party, and two each for three other main parties.

The other political parties are, however, not obliged to accept the People's party's nominee. The Green Party last weekend nominated a party member, Cécile Bühlmann, as its candidate, but she is seen as a "disturbance factor" rather than a potential winner.

by Ron Popper


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