Expatica news

Swiss defence minister resigns

12 November 2008

BERN – Switzerland’s defence minister announced his resignation Wednesday after enduring months of criticism over his leadership of the military.

Samuel Schmid, who joined Switzerland’s cross-party Cabinet eight years ago, had come under fire for his handling of two training accidents in which several soldiers died and after his choice of army chief was forced to step down because of sexual harassment allegations.

Schmid, 61, had also been hospitalised last week with an infected gall bladder.

"I am resigning for the sake of my health, my family, my country and the army," he said.

The announcement was something of a surprise, as calls for his resignation had died down recently. Schmid told the daily Berner Zeitung earlier in November he was not considering stepping down.

Schmid was elected to Switzerland’s seven-member Federal Council in 2000 and served as the country’s rotating president in 2005. He broke with the Swiss People’s Party late last year.

Stripped of his political support, Schmid was criticised for a boating accident in June during a Swiss military exercise that killed five soldiers. That came after six soldiers died last year in an avalanche as they tried to scale a mountain during training.

Schmid’s low point, though, came when army chief Roland Nef resigned seven months into his post after media reported that a criminal investigation had been under way into claims he coerced a former girlfriend while he was a candidate for the top military job.

The case was settled out of court in 2007.

The government said in a statement it regretted the loss of Schmid, "a loyal colleague who always looked for balanced solutions."

Schmid’s successor will be chosen on 10 December in a joint session of the upper and lower houses of parliament.

[AP / Expatica]