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Swiss populist Blocher fails in votes for government seat

Blocher, of the nationalist-conservative Swiss Peoples Party SVP, failed to clear the first two votes in parliament, with only one more round of voting remaining.

The seven-member Federal Council government is being elected by parliament in the wake of the October national elections in which the SVP emerged as the strongest party with 29 per cent of the vote.

Since then, two of the co-governing parties, the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, had voiced their opposition to Blocher gaining a seat in the new government.

Blocher has been a figure of controversy in Switzerland with his hard-line opinions about immigrants and asylum-seekers.

The SVP has threatened to go into the opposition if Blocher, who is the SVP’s top candidate, is not elected.

This in turn would shake the system of government in Switzerland, where four parties – the SVP, Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Free Democrats – have virtually ruled together since 1959.

The parliament did give absolute majority backing to another SVP politician, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. But political observers believed that she would not accept the government seat. DPA