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Poll finds strong support for justice minister

Two-thirds of Swiss voters disapprove of an attempt by the Swiss People's Party to expel Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf from the rightwing group.

The survey found that 60 per cent wanted Widmer-Schlumpf to remain a party member and 68 per cent backed her as a cabinet minister.

Commissioned by Sunday newspapers in the German, French and Italian language regions, the poll also found that two-thirds of voters thought the move by the People’s Party leadership to expel her represented a threat to democracy.

Widmer-Schlumpf even found support among People’s Party voters. Half of those surveyed said they did not want to see her relinquish her government post or leave the party.

The justice minister replaced the party’s controversial representative, Christoph Blocher, in the government last December.

Seen as representing the more moderate wing of the People’s Party, she was elected to the cabinet by parliament against the wishes of the People’s Party. Her nomination was supported by centre-left parties and many members of the centre right.

The party justified its intention to expel her by saying that she had pushed Blocher from office, and “placed her personal interest and that of the Social Democrats above the interests of her own party”.

Thousands of people took part in a rally in the capital Bern on Friday in a demonstration of support for her.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR