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First candidate to succeed Couchepin named

Senator Didier Burkhalter from canton Neuchâtel has become the first official candidate to toss his hat into the ring to replace Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin.

The executive of Neuchâtel’s centre-right Radical Party nominated Burkhalter on Wednesday evening.

The 49-year-old economist has been a member of parliament since 2003, first in the House of Representatives and since 2007 in the Senate.

Couchepin, one of two Radical Party representatives in the seven-member cabinet, announced his resignation last month.

Parliament will choose his successor in September. Normally, this would be a member of the party of the resigning minister but the candidate, or candidates, put forward by the Radical Party is expected to face stiff competition from whoever the centre-right Christian Democrats nominate.

Other parties have also said they will enter candidates.

Both centre-right parties were represented in the cabinet by two party members for decades, but the Christian Democrats lost one of their seats to the rightwing Swiss People’s Party in 2003.

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