Majority female cabinet for Swiss parliament

Photo: Reuters

Switzerland's parliament gave women a majority of cabinet posts for the first time in the history Wednesday.


Switzerland was the last European democracy to grant women the vote at national level in 1971. The first female minister was only elected in 1984.

Parliamentarian Simonetta Sommaruga was elected into office with 159 votes out of 245. She will replace Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger, a fellow Socialist, who will retire on 31 October.

Sommaruga’s career as a parliamentarian stretches back to 1999. She is president of a leading consumer protection group and has campaigned against the pharmaceutical lobby as well as for decent food standards.

In her acceptance speech Sommaruga pledged to show "humility, credibility and reliability" in her new role.

The socialist also added "the majority must take account of all minorities, whether they are cultural, linguistic, religious, political or of any other nature".

Women candidates failed in their bids to replace Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz of the centre-right Radical-Liberal Party, with his party colleague Johann Schneider-Ammann being elected.

Previously three of the seven ministerial posts in the current government were occupied by women before Wednesday's results.

Women ministers currently hold a majority of ministerial posts in Finland and parity in the governments of Spain and Norway.

A long-standing Swiss campaigner for women's political rights, former socialist MP Amelia Christinat, called the election "historic" and added "I'm asking for a Federal Council with seven women”.


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