Women in Switzerland have mixed views on Trump win

The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, meets Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey during a bilateral meeting on October 10, 2009 in Zurich Keystone

Why didn’t Hillary Clinton get elected? A former Swiss female president and some American women living in Switzerland have some answers.

This content was published on November 9, 2016 minutes

Switzerland has had female presidents since 1999. But it is an honorary, rotating position among the cabinet, and hence a very different job to that of the US president. While Switzerland’s first female president Ruth Dreifuss did not want to comment on the US results, Micheline Calmy-Rey, who held the post in 2007 and 2011, has been airing her views.

She was the foreign minister when Clinton was Secretary of State, in charge of foreign affairs. They knew each other over the period 2009-2011.

Calmy-Rey told Swiss public television RTS External linkthat Hillary’s gender had been a big stumbling block in her election. “The symbol of having a woman as head of the most powerful state in the world, capable of pressing the nuclear button and being commander in chief, this creates scepticism and opposition. It has not yet become widely accepted obviously.”

No slamming of fists

“She couldn’t act like a man in the campaign, she couldn’t show her strength and perhaps the Americans thought she wouldn’t be able to protect them in this changing world,” adding that slamming the table to make her point would mean a woman was considered hysterical.

“Hillary Clinton is a very methodical, organised person, who is across her dossiers, who directed a foreign policy, along with Mr Obama, based on reason, the rule of law, human rights dialogue rather than military force and this type of policy has been called into question, not only in the US but everywhere around the world,” said Calmy-Rey.

Martine Brunschwig Graf, the head of the Federal Commission against Racism, attributed Trump’s win to “disenchantment” among voters rather than populism.

She said that in part responsibility lay with the two main US political parties who had put forward controversial people. “Democracy functions best in my view when the parties produce high quality political people,” she wrote in an editorial for the Le Temps newspaperExternal link.

“This situation can not only happen in America. The parties tend to produce candidates meant to win elections but not to govern a country. The have forgotten their primary mission, and this is encouraged by the media. It’s also the case in France.”

“Goodbye America” was the reaction from Anita Fetz, a senator from the leftwing Social Democrat Party, who almost belongs to the same generation as Hillary Clinton, and has followed her career closely.

Fetz said that being rich and part of the establishment had contributed to why voters went against Clinton. These are conditions - normally needed to campaign in elections - that are also easier to accept in a man, she said.

She told that anger against the establishment had been bigger than any unease about Trump’s anti-women comments.

Effect on Switzerland?

As for what a Trump victory means for Switzerland, Christa Markwalder, the current speaker House of Representatives, told the Swiss News Agency that she saw “a lot of question marks” when it came to reading the impact of Trump’s victory.

But Switzerland had every interest to continue to keep up the good ties with the US.

Markwalder, also president of the parliamentary association Switzerland-USA, said Trump’s victory created a climate of insecurity unfavourable for investors.

But she added: “Switzerland has a good reputation in the US, about half a million US citizens have Swiss roots.”

American views

Women from the United States living in Switzerland have been giving their reactions to the election of Donald Trump.

Ellen Frick-Delman, President of the American Woman’s Club Zurich,External link was attending a Swiss-American Chamber of CommerceExternal link US Election Breakfast event in Zurich. She was shocked about Hillary Clinton failing to get elected.

“It’s a disappointment because it is time that the US had a woman president. Obviously, it wasn’t time for Hillary. But the very fact that she ran for President opens a door which is very empowering for women.”

A female Trump voter, who did not wanted to be named, told “Not everyone is going to vote for a woman simply because she’s a woman. There may have been other issues, such as jobs or security, that impacted their reasons for voting. And perhaps these were more important than voting for a woman.”

Why didn't Hillary Clinton win? Let us know your views.

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