Long-standing Swiss government minister to step down
Senior government minister Simonetta Sommaruga has announced she is stepping down from the seven-member Swiss government at the end of the year.
Addressing the news conference called at short notice on Wednesday, Sommaruga said family reasons made her take the decision after her husband suffered a stroke.
Sommaruga has been a member of the government for the left-wing Social Democratic Party since 2010 as justice minister and then as transport, energy, environment and communications minister from 2018 onwards.
She is the second minister to announce her resignation from the cabinet within a month, following the finance minister, Ueli Maurer.
Parliament is due to elect successors for Sommaruga and Maurer during the winter session on December 7.
Sommaruga said the health scare suffered by her husband was a deep personal shock.
“I realised I wouldn’t be able to continue as before. Over the past 12 years my position as a member of the government has always been the priority in my life. Being a cabinet member needs a full commitment,” she said in an emotional statement made in German, French and Italian.
She stressed the importance of dialogue, compromise and collective decision taking as part of the Swiss political system with its tenets of direct democracy and federalist structure.
Sommaruga, a member of the left-wing Social Democratic Party, highlighted the reform of the asylum policy, equal pay and the political fight for the victims of society, notably the plight of “discarded children”.
She said being a member of a minority party in Swiss politics had not always been easy, but defeats or criticism hadn’t stopped her trying harder.
Analysts say her main political achievement was speeding up the asylum procedure, a reform of the Swiss citizenship law. However, voters’ rejection in 2021 of a law to curb greenhouse gas emissions was a blow to her department.
Election in December
The Social Democratic Party has announced it will present two female candidates over the next few weeks to succeed Sommaruga in the government. Parliament will decide on December 7.
On the same day, parliament is also due to elect a successor for the outgoing finance minister, Ueli Maurer, who announced his resignation at the end of September.
The replacement of two of the seven ministers is unlikely to lead a major shift in the multi-party arrangement in the Swiss government. Both the Social Democrats and the right-wing Swiss People’s Party currently hold two seats – with the remaining three seats occupied by centre-right and centrist parties.
But observers say the by-elections to the cabinet in December could have an impact on the general elections in October 2023.
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