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Parliament elects new speakers

Françoise Saudan and Peter Hess are the new parliamentary speakers Keystone

Two new speakers have been elected in the Swiss parliament. Peter Hess was named speaker of the House of Representatves, and Françoise Saudan was elected to the same post in the Senate.

The decisions on Monday came at the start of parliament’s three-week winter session.

Hess, a Christian Democrat from canton Zug, holds what is nominally the highest position in Swiss politics for the next 12 months. He takes over from Hanspeter Seiler of the People’s Party.

Hess was elected to the rotating post with 155 votes out 175 cast. In his position, he leads the debates in the House and oversees business during the sessions. He represents the House in contacts with other institutions.

The speaker also heads joint sessions of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Hess, a 52-year old lawyer, has been a member of parliament since 1983. During his political career, he has been leader of his party’s parliamentary group and narrowly failed to be elected to cabinet last year.

The Senate is due to elect Saudan as its speaker with 43 out of a possible 44 votes. She has represented canton Geneva in the Senate for the past five years. Saudan is a member of the Radical Party, and takes over from Carlo Schmid from canton Appenzell-Innerrhoden.

She is the first female speaker of the 46-member Senate from the French-speaking part of the country.

The House of Representatives on Monday also began discussions on next year’s federal budget, which foresees a slight deficit of SFr58 million, and additional funds for this year. The debate is due to continue into Tuesday.

One of the highlights of parliament’s winter session is the election of a new cabinet member after the resignation of the defence minister, Adolf Ogi.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR