Switzerland's members of parliament have handed themselves a pay rise, but voted against employing personal secretaries and advisers.
Following several inconclusive debates in the House of Representatives and the Senate, parliament on Thursday finally decided against introducing a system of state-funded parliamentary aides.
Under the proposal, MPs would have been given SFr40,000 ($26,100) a year to hire personal secretaries for their parliamentary office. But opponents argued that this would cost too much and limit the independence of MPs.
Supporters said additional help was crucial to cope with the increasing workload. They warned that politics risked becoming the preserve of the elite (see swissinfo below), if MPs were not granted funds for personal assistants.
Under Switzerland's so-called "militia" system, members of parliament do not give up their jobs when they take on their mandate.
Despite the rejection of personal aides, parliament acknowledged the need for more financial support. It voted to increase the basic salary and remuneration for MPs from SFr30,000 to SFr54,000 a year.
The funds are at the discretion of the politicians, who on average will now earn about SFr100,000.
They usually meet four times a year for three-week sessions. Many of them also take part in regular meeting of parliamentary committees throughout the year.
However, it is not clear whether the hike will come into force. The right wing Swiss People's Party has repeatedly vowed to challenge any increase in remuneration in a nationwide vote. In 1992, voters rejected a similar proposal at the ballot box.
The party says higher salaries are a first step towards a professional parliament and would undermine the militia system.
Urs Geiser with agencies
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