The Swiss media has much praise for the “exceptional politician” Doris Leuthard, the day after she announced she was stepping down from the government. But questions have been raised about the timing – and her legacy.
Leuthard’s decision came just two days after Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann announced his retirement from the Federal Council, Switzerland’s seven-member governing body.
“What is going to happen next?” was the title in the French-speaking 24 Heures external linknewspaper accompanied by the official government photo, with the two faces of the retiring ministers obscured. The announcement “gives a nasty impression that there is a big cacophony going on inside the government,” observed Arcinfoexternal link.
Now that the campaign has been launched for a successor, there should be a big debate on the composition of the Federal Council, French-speaking newspaper Le Temps external linksaid. Under consideration: gender, skills, regional background for new candidates, as well as a redistribution of the ministers.
A few names have been put forward as Leuthard’s successor, with many in the press saying that at least one of the replacements for the two outgoing ministers must be a woman.
But overall the press agreed that Leuthard’s departure at the end of the year would leave a big gap in the government.
The minister has been responsible for environmental, transport, energy and communications issues. She held the rotating Swiss presidency in 2010 and 2017.
Popular, blessed with a charisma and work ethic, Leuthard “closes her ‘reign’ with a win of 16 popular votes out of 18. Respect,” commented La Libertéexternal link.
The best weapon in her arsenal was being able to speak the language of consensus, said the German-speaking Tages-Anzeigerexternal link and the Bundexternal link jointly, adding that she was also a “tough opponent”. The Neue Zürcher Zeitungexternal link underlined her ability to find feasible projects which got approval from everyone.
But the German-speaking papers were also quick to point out some downsides. “Quite often you got the impression that Doris Leuthard was relying on her popularity and avoiding more difficult decisions. With her charisma and communication talent, she could have pushed more things through,” said online portal Watsonexternal link.
“Her desire to succeed often resulted in solutions that got majority support but were somewhat thin in terms of content,” added the Tages-Anzeiger and the Bund.
Her secret was “a flair for theatricality combined with an extraordinary power of persuasion and a good instinct for timing”, the two newspapers summed up.
But what about the timing? Several newspapers commented on the fact that two ministers had resigned in the space of a week. Does it make Switzerland look credible or stable? they asked. There are big outstanding issues still on the table, especially in Schneider-Ammann’s case, like the EU framework agreement.
“The unspoken rule is that federal councillors are only the masters of one thing: the day that they choose to step down. But we expect that they ally this very personal decision to their sense of national duty,” the Tribune de Genèveexternal link said.