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Swisscom sell-off faces increasing opposition

Party president Leuthard is top favourite to replace Deiss Keystone

Plans to privatise the country's leading telecommunications company, Swisscom, have come in for renewed criticism.

This content was published on April 29, 2006 - 19:15

Ahead of a special session of parliament next month, the Christian Democratic Party has reaffirmed its opposition to a government proposal to sell its majority stake in the company.

Delegates of Switzerland's fourth-biggest party on Saturday called on the government to withdraw its plan to sell its 62.5 per cent stake in Swisscom.

They also demanded the government reconsider a ban on the company making major foreign acquisitions.

The cabinet decided in November to outlaw strategic acquisitions – which led to the departure of Swisscom chief executive Jens Alder.

The party said the government should keep a 51 per cent stake in Swisscom to guarantee a nationwide presence and service by the telecoms operator.

Several speakers said the privatisation plans lacked a thorough assessment.

Debate

The centre-right Christian Democrats and the centre-left Social Democrats have pledged to throw out the proposals during discussions in the House of Representatives, due to open in ten days' time.

However, two other major parties, the centre-right Radicals and the rightwing Swiss People's Party say they stand behind the government on the issue.

Swisscom and its new chief executive Carsten Schloter have welcomed the planned privatisation.

In another development, the Christian Democrats have come out in favour of tightening legislation on asylum and foreigners, due to be put to a nationwide vote in September.

Ovation for Deiss

Delegates gave a standing ovation to Economics Minister Joseph Deiss, a member of the Christian Democrats, who announced his resignation from the government earlier this week.

Deiss, who puts an end to his political career in July, reiterated his concern over increasing polarisation in the seven-member cabinet.

He said he preferred in-depth debates and the search for compromise to cheap arguments and confrontation-style politics.

Deiss is the only Christian Democrat in the cabinet after the party lost its second seat in the 2003 elections to the People's Party.

Parliament is due to appoint a successor to Deiss on June 14. The party's president, Doris Leuthard, is being widely tipped as the frontrunner to succeed him.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The centre-right Christian Democrats are one of the four main political parties in parliament.

Swisscom is the dominant player in the Swiss telecommunications market and had a monopoly until 1998.

The debate about the privatisation of Swisscom is likely to pit the Christian Democrats together with the centre-left Social Democrats agains the Radicals and the People's Party.

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