Swiss parliament elects new government without Blocher

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Berne, December, 12, 2007- The Swiss Federal Assembly went into recess Wednesday after two rounds of voting in which it blocked the re- election of controversial populist politician Christoph Blocher to a new seat in the seven-member government.

The assembly had elected Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, a fellow member of Blocher's nationalist-conservative Swiss Peoples Party (SVP), in his stead.

After that development, Widmer-Schlumpf requested time to consider whether to accept the position.

Earlier, in two rounds of voting, Blocher had failed to clear the absolute majority hurdle needed for his re-election in a development which threatened to plunge Switzerland's political system into crisis.

Blocher, the Justice Minister and the top candidate of the SVP, was the only one of the seven-member Federal Council government not to be re-elected in the vote coming after October's elections.

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 immigration 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.

It was not clear whether and when a third vote would be held in parliament. DPA


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