Social Democrats announce plans for change

Switzerland's Social Democrats want to reform the party's ageing structure but there are no plans for a change of personnel at the top. After a closed conference, the party president, Ursula Koch (pictured) played down internal conflicts.

This content was published on February 20, 2000 - 12:28

Switzerland's Social Democrats want to reform the party's ageing structure but there are no plans for a change of personnel at the top.

At a closed conference on Saturday in Muri, canton Berne, the party's president, Ursula Koch (pictured), played down internal conflicts and set down the main political themes for the next four years.

She said questions of confidence had not been on the agenda during the conference and the main issue had been the need for the reform of internal party structures. Koch said that voters also wanted to know what policy reforms the party was proposing.

The party president dismissed media speculation about her personal differences with the general secretary, Jean-Francois Steiert, which had been expected to come to a head during the talks. Koch said that conflicts that existed within the party had been discussed calmly and constructively. But neither she nor Steiert was prepared to comment on press articles which had tracked disagreements between the two of them over recent months.

The Social Democrat's vice president, Pierre Aeby, said at a press conference after the closed session, that everyone had agreed the party was an old one with outdated structures. He said the party had undertaken to draw up proposals for reform from now until June and these would be presented to the party conference in October.

Aeby said social cohesion and personal security would be the main policy themes of the Social Democrats between now and the end of the current parliament in 2003. He said this would mean security of the individual in a society free from violence and repression. There would have to be better prevention of juvenile violence and a stronger law restricting ownership of personal weapons.

Social insurance and pensions policy had to take into account changes in the individual's circumstances. Aeby also said health reform and tax reform would be high on the party's agenda.

The party also stressed that it wants to retain close ties with the European Union and make sure that the government does not try to give priority to Switzerland joining the United Nations.

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