Long-serving Swiss cabinet minister resigns
Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger has announced his resignation for the end of 2010 after 15 years in government.
The member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party from Zurich joined the government in 1995 and was responsible for transport, energy, environment and communication.
Leuenberger said he had chosen to announce his resignation nearly six months before to give parliament enough time to prepare for the election of a new Swiss president.
The minister was due to take over the largely ceremonial post in 2011, a position he has already held twice before.
Leuenberger said the remaining five-and-a-half months in office would allow him to bring to a symbolic end two major projects in his ministry. Major digging of the world’s longest rail tunnel through the Alps should be finished in October. He also wants to attend an international climate summit in Cancún scheduled for December.
He rebuffed media speculation about possible tactical moves or a feeling of frustration behind his resignation.
“Don’t act so surprised and don’t read too much into the moment I chose to make my announcement,” he told a news conference on Friday.
Leuenberger, who is the longest-serving cabinet minister in recent memory, has been facing speculation over the end of his political career for a long time.
He said his long presence at the helm of his ministry had helped to build a consistent position in comparison with other European countries.
“Switzerland enjoys an excellent reputation abroad,” Leuenberger said.
He championed the introduction of a tax on carbon dioxide emission on fuel. The bill is now under discussion in parliament.
Leuenberger said he would formally hand in his resignation to parliament during its next session in September. It will elect a successor in December just a year before general elections.
The rightwing Swiss People’s Party has claimed the seat of Leuenberger in cabinet, saying it was under-represented.
The Social Democrats and the centre-right Radicals have two seats in the government, while the People’s Party, as well as the centre-right Christian Democrats and the Conservative Democratic Party hold one seat each.
Observers don’t exclude further resignations of cabinet ministers in the coming months. Both Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey have been under pressure to step down.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch
The outgoing Swiss transport minister was born on September 21, 1946, in Biel.
He spent his formative years in Biel, Basel and Zurich, where he studied and worked as a lawyer from 1972 to 1991.
Leuenberger joined the centre-left Social Democratic Party in 1969, presiding the Zurich city section from 1972 to 1980.
From 1974 to 1983, he was also a member of the city’s parliament. In 1979, he was elected to the House of Representatives.
In 1991, he was elected to the Zurich cantonal government, beating out a representative of the Swiss People’s Party, the current defence minister Ueli Maurer.
September 27, 1995: election to the Swiss cabinet, where he takes over the transport, energy, communications and environment ministry.
Mortitz Leuenberger also held the country’s rotating presidency in 2001 and 2006.
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