Schmid election leaves status quo intact

Samuel Schmid election graphic

The election to the Swiss cabinet of Samuel Schmid may have been a snub to the leaders of his right-wing Swiss People's Party, but it will not lead to any significant political change, according to commentators in Thursday's Swiss press.

This content was published on December 7, 2000 minutes

Under the headline "The election which changed nothing", the French-language "Le Temps" comments that, typically for Switzerland, political leaders failed to make any serious choices when Schmid was elected on Wednesday.

In particular, it says the Social Democrats failed to carry out their threat to throw the People's Party out of government. This would have ended the 41-year-old "magic formula", under which cabinet posts are shared out among the four main parties.

The German-Swiss papers are unanimous in saying Schmid's election represented a political setback for the People's Party's populist figurehead, Christoph Blocher, and the hard-line Zurich wing of the party.

The choice of Schmid, who belongs to the more moderate Bern-based section of the party, was a "debacle for Blocher", according to the "TagesAnzeiger".

The "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" says the election represents an opportunity for Blocher to play a more constructive political role rather than to sink back into his traditional stance of opposing government policy.

During the six rounds of balloting which finally led to Schmid's election, the three other parties in government - the Social Democrats, and the centre-right Christian Democrats and Radicals - voted mainly for unofficial or alternative candidates as a sign of displeasure at the People's Party's hard-line policies and its frequent "opposition" stance within the collective responsibility cabinet.

The Social Democrats' behaviour comes in for criticism in some papers. The "Südostschweiz" says the Social Democrats scored an own goal: By humiliating the People's Party, it is likely to provoke the party to become more hard-line.

The Bernese newspapers, while welcoming the election of a candidate from the canton, recognise that despite belonging to the more liberal wing of the party, Schmid is more conservative than his predecessor, the outgoing defence minister, Adolf Ogi.

Schmid is expected to take over the defence portfolio when the cabinet seats are discussed on Friday.


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