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Rightwing cabinet minister stands firm

Samuel Schmid in Bern after his party demanded a second seat in the cabinet Keystone

Samuel Schmid, the rightwing People’s Party’s only cabinet minister, says he will decide for himself whether he is to remain in government.

Backed by his Bern powerbase, Schmid said he would not be pressured into standing down in the event of the party not gaining a second cabinet seat.

Following Sunday’s resounding election victory, where it gained the largest share of the vote, the People’s Party laid claim to a second seat in the seven-member cabinet.

And the party warned that if its candidate, the hardliner Christoph Blocher, failed in his bid, the more moderate Schmid would be asked to step down.

“I am making no commitments about the future of my position, if Christoph Blocher is not appointed to the cabinet,” Schmid said on Tuesday.

His comments came two days after the party’s president, Ueli Maurer, threatened to withdraw Schmid from the cabinet and go into opposition if demands for a second cabinet seat were not met.

Speaking on Wednesday, Maurer said he understood and respected Schmid’s position.

Full backing

Schmid’s tough talking brought him a standing ovation from the 500-strong audience at Tuesday’s meeting of the Bern wing of the People’s Party.

Hermann Weyeneth, local party present, insisted Schmid had the full support of the Bern branch.

Delegates voted unanimously in favour of the party being given a second cabinet seat. But they said Schmid should not be asked to stand down if it were refused.

Weyeneth added that the Bern branch was prepared to put the issue to a vote of the party’s 80,000 members. However, Maurer ruled out a vote on technical grounds, adding that there was no central register of party members.

Political gamble

Political analysts say the party’s threat that Schmid could be asked to step down has led to divisions.

“The party has gambled a little bit too much by calling on minister Samuel Schmid to resign if Blocher is not elected,” said election analyst Claude Longchamp.

“This demand has upset some of the party’s own members as well as the other parties.”

A second cabinet seat, if granted, would come at the expense of one of the other three parties in government.

Such a move would change the so-called “Magic Formula”, a power-sharing arrangement dating back to 1959 that gives the Social Democrats, the Radicals and the Christian Democrats two seats each, and one for the People’s Party.

At the time of the agreement, the People’s Party was the smallest of the four parties in government.

On Sunday the party won 26.6% of the popular vote, and gained an extra 11 seats in the House of Representatives, taking its tally to 55.

swissinfo with agencies

Samuel Schmid, the rightwing People’s Party sole cabinet minister, says he will not bow to pressure from his party and resign.

The People’s Party has threatened to go into opposition and withdraw from government if the party’s hardline figurehead, Christoph Blocher, is not given a cabinet seat.

Schmid says he has the full support of the Bern wing of the People’s Party.

The Swiss People’s Party won 26.6% of the popular vote, and now has 55 seats in the House of Representatives.
Social Democrats: 23.3% with 52 seats.
Radicals: 17.3% with 36 seats.
Christian Democrats: 14.4% with 28 seats.
Greens (not in government): 7.4% with 13 seats.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR