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People’s Party forced to pick new candidate

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party was in crisis mode on Thursday after one of its two candidates for next week’s cabinet election withdrew from the race.

The withdrawal of Bruno Zuppiger followed allegations in a weekly news magazine that his company, chosen as executor of a former employee’s will, had kept for itself SFr265,000 ($287,000) that was intended to go to social organisations.

Following an emergency party meeting, the party named Hansjörg Walter, president of the Swiss Farmers Association and since Monday speaker of the House of Representatives, as Zuppiger’s replacement on its two-horse cabinet ticket, alongside Jean-François Rime.

The People’s Party, which got 26.6 per cent of the vote in October’s federal elections, is hoping to gain a second cabinet seat on December 14.

Speaking to a packed media conference in Bern, Zuppiger said he had taken the decision to withdraw from the cabinet election independently of party leaders, whom he had informed on Thursday morning. He had previously stated publicly that the affair had been settled with the parties concerned.

In a statement released when the pro-rightwing Weltwoche magazine allegations first surfaced on Wednesday, the People’s Party said it was aware of the allegations against Zuppiger when he was chosen as a candidate but believed the affair had been resolved.  

People’s Party parliamentary group leader Caspar Baadar told reporters party leaders did not have all the facts when they first examined the situation.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR