Swiss government enters new era

The new cabinet is sworn in

Christoph Blocher - the populist figurehead of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party - has won a seat in government, changing the political face of the cabinet.

This content was published on December 10, 2003 - 13:06

By a narrow majority of five parliamentary votes, Blocher unseated the Christian Democrat justice minister, Ruth Metzler.

Hans-Rudolf Merz of the centre-right Radicals was elected to replace Kaspar Villiger, who is retiring as finance minister.

Blocher’s election brings an end to a power-sharing arrangement – known as the Magic Formula – which has been in place for 44 years.

Move to the right

It marks a move to the right for Switzerland’s consensus government, in which the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, Radicals and Swiss People’s Party are represented.

With Blocher’s election, and the re-election of defence minister Samuel Schmid, the People’s Party has increased its representation in cabinet from one to two seats.

The rightwing party had stepped up calls for a second seat after it emerged the biggest party in the parliamentary elections of October 19.

Blocher’s victory came after three rounds head-to-head against Metzler.

“I accept my election, I will do everything that I can and I hope that God will help ensure that all goes well,” Blocher said after the result was announced.

The Social Democrats reacted with dismay to the news of Blocher’s election.

“It’s not a good result for the country,” Social Democrat parliamentarian Andreas Gross told swissinfo. “In the long term, the Socialists and Mr Blocher are not compatible in one government.”

Life after government

Responding to her failure to win re-election, Metzler said she accepted parliament’s “democratic decision”, but was sad to have to give up her work after almost five years in the cabinet, where she serves as justice minister.

“I leave office without any bitterness and with a rich experience which will stay with me in the future. I always knew there was life after government - I only wish it hadn’t come quite so soon,” Metzler told the joint session of parliament.

Her party colleague, economics minister Joseph Deiss, was confirmed in his cabinet seat in the sixth round. Deiss is now the only Christian Democrat in the seven-member government.

The members of the new cabinet, which will take over in January, are: Moritz Leuenberger (Social Democrats); Christoph Blocher (People’s Party); Joseph Deiss (Christian Democrats); Pascal Couchepin (Radicals); Samuel Schmid (People’s Party); Micheline Calmy-Rey (Social Democrats) and Hans-Rudolf Merz (Radicals).

Deiss was also elected president, a largely ceremonial position which rotates annually among the cabinet members.


Key facts

The newly elected Swiss cabinet:

Moritz Leuenberger (Social Democrats)
Pascal Couchepin (Radicals)
Christoph Blocher (People’s Party)
Joseph Deiss (Christian Democrats)
Samuel Schmid (People’s Party)
Micheline Calmy-Rey (Social Democrats)
Hans-Rudolf Merz (Radicals)

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