‘Foreigners must have a cabinet minister’

Lukas Bärfuss: 'I was Swiss before I even had a name' Keystone

Forget about whether the next cabinet minister should be a woman or speak Italian – parliament should pick someone who represents the two million people in Switzerland who don’t have Swiss citizenship, argues author Lukas Bärfuss. 

This content was published on September 18, 2017,

Of the three official candidates in Wednesday’s cabinet election, the favourite is Ignazio Cassis, who could become the first cabinet minister from Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, since 1999. Others are calling for Isabelle Moret to be chosen, as currently only two of the seven ministers are female. 

“It’s important that the entire population is reflected in the federal government,” said Bärfuss, one of Switzerland’s most successful authors and playwrights, in an interview with the Aargauer ZeitungExternal link on Monday. 

“However, the largest minority will never have the chance to get anywhere near a cabinet seat: that third of the resident population [two million people] that doesn’t have a Swiss passport,” he says.

“Of course it’s legitimate that the Ticinese want a cabinet minister. But before that happens, the foreigners should get a minister. Why should someone who lives, works, sends his kids to school and pays taxes here not be able to have a say politically?” 

When it was put to him that citizenship was a sort of profession of loyalty, Zurich-based Bärfuss agreed, but pointed out that he had never been asked for this loyalty. 

“I was Swiss before I even had a name. An attachment to society is crucial, but I don’t see why I should have this attachment and a person without a Swiss passport shouldn’t. It’s an arbitrary classification.” 

Language and chromosomes 

On Sunday, a survey of almost 12,000 people published in the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers found that 51% of respondents said a person’s origin and gender were not important when filling a cabinet seat.  

That said, 32% believed the new person should come from Italian-speaking Switzerland and 15% said the new minister should be a woman. 

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