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Doris Leuthard Swiss minister to step down

woman speaking

Doris Leuthard has headed the ministry for the environment, transport, energy and communications since 2010.

(Keystone/Peter Klaunzer)

Doris Leuthard, a member of the Swiss Federal Council, is stepping down at the end of this year.

“I look forward to the last three months, and I will commit myself right up to the last minute,” Leuthard promised at a media conference in Bern on Thursday morning.

As one of the seven members of the Federal Council, Leuthardexternal link is responsible for environmental, transport, energy and communications issues. She held the rotating Swiss presidencyexternal link in 2010 and 2017.

"I was very happy to do this job,” she said, her voice full of emotion. Speaking in German, French and Italian, she thanked her colleagues and paid tribute to their professionalism.

“Switzerland is an economically powerful country. It has changed a lot in ten years. It is important to keep a balance between the different interests and not to seek confrontation,” said Leuthard, hinting that this would be one of the challenges of the next legislature. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 2019.

Image gallery of Doris Leuthard

Longest-serving minister

Leuthard, 55, has been in the Federal Council, the Swiss executive body, for over 12 years – the longest of the seven current ministers. She was elected on June 14, 2006, taking over from her party colleague Joseph Deiss.

Prior to her current cabinet seat, she headed the economics ministry from 2006 to 2010. When she joined the cabinet, she was president of the centre-right Christian Democratic Party, having served as a parliamentarian from 1999 to 2006.

Her resignation comes just two days after Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann announced his retirement. She acknowledged that it was perhaps less-than-ideal for the seven-member cabinet. However, she pointed out that even if she were to stay for another year, at any time there could be a double departure of ministers.

Popular politician

Leuthard, from canton Aargau in northern Switzerland, has always been one of the most popular ministers in government and has almost never been defeated at the polls.

“I won 16 votes out of 18 because the population showed maturity,” she said. “Contact with the citizens was very important.”

She will probably be best remembered for her contribution to creating Switzerland’s Energy Strategy 2050, approved by nearly 60% of voters last year. One of its key elements is to phase out nuclear power in Switzerland.

More recently, her department has had to deal with a scandal after an audit found that PostBus had been manipulating accountsexternal link.

Next in line?

Without elaborating, Leuthard said it was time for “new, fresh forces” to join the government. The question is, who should take the seats left vacant by Leuthard and Schneider-Ammann? After the latter announced his retirement on Tuesday, the Swiss media called for him to be replaced by a womanexternal link for the sake of gender balance within the seven-member cabinet. Replacements will likely be chosen in early December.

Currently, there are two female federal councillors: Leuthard and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommarugaexternal link. In 2010, Sommaruga’s election brought a first-time majorityexternal link, which lasted until 2011, when Micheline Calmy-Reyexternal link retired.

Keystone-SDA/sm/sb

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