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Former cabinet minister, Leon Schlumpf, dies

Unusual in Switzerland: two cabinet ministers from one family. Leon Schlumpf with his daughter Eveline. Keystone

Former cabinet minister Leon Schlumpf, the father of Switzerland’s current finance minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, has died after a long illness at the age of 87, the federal chancellery has announced.

Schlumpf, a member of the Swiss People’s Party, joined the government in 1980, and was transport and energy minister until he stepped down in 1987. He was Swiss president in 1984 – a post which rotates annually, and which his daughter holds this year.

In its tribute, the cabinet praised him as a man who always put the emphasis on human beings and on dialogue.

His successor in the cabinet, Adolf Ogi, told the Sonntag newspaper that Schlumpf was “down to earth, reliable and conscientious”.

“He strove for perfection, was always aware of his duty to the people, and played an important part in ensuring harmony in the cabinet.”

As cabinet minister, Schlumpf launched the Rail2000 project which has improved connections, increased the frequency of trains on some major lines, and modernised the rolling stock. He is regarded as the father of the Vereina rail tunnel in Graubünden, which has greatly speeded up connections with the Engadine for rail passengers and for vehicles, since it includes a car shuttle.

He also oversaw the expansion of the road network, and introduced the “vignette”, the licence all cars using Swiss motorways must display.

As communications minister, he opened up the way to the licensing of private radio stations.

Schlumpf was born in Felsberg in canton Graubünden in 1925, and studied law in Zurich. He started his political career as a member of the Graubünden Democratic party, and played an important part in its merger with the Farmers’, Traders’ and Citizens’ Party, which in 1971 became the Swiss People’s Party.

He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1966, and to the Senate in 1974. From 1974 to 1978 he was Switzerland’s price supervisor, who checks that customers are being charged fair prices for goods and services.

In 2007, when his daughter was unexpectedly elected by parliament to the cabinet seat of the People’s Party instead of the party’s controversial strongman, Christoph Blocher, the Graubünden section of the party was expelled. Schlumpf was a founder member of the new Conservative Democratic party in Graubünden, created by the expellees.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR