GENEVA– Switzerland's parliament on Wednesday elected the country's hardline finance minister to serve in the largely symbolic position of president next year, and also picked two women to fill vacant ministerial spots.
The choice of Ueli Maurer, a 68-year-old member of the populist rightwing Swiss People's Party, came as no surprise as it was his turn among the seven members of the Swiss government to take on the rotating one-year presidency.
Maurer, who has been a member of government since 2009 and previously served as defence minister, served as president once before in 2013.
The parliament picked Viola Amherd and Karin Keller-Sutter to fill two vacant ministerial spots, achieving near-gender equality in the cabinet.
Amherd, a member of the centrist Christian Democratic Party, was chosen to replace party colleague and Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard, who announced in September she would step down after 12 years in government.
The 56-year-old lawyer from the southern canton of Wallis easily won parliament's support, garnering 148 of a possible 240 votes.
Lawmakers also picked Keller-Sutter of the centre-right Liberal Party to replace party colleague and Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, who will also be retiring at the end of December after serving eight years in office.
The 54-year-old interpreter and secondary school teacher from the northeastern canton of St. Gallen was also elected with ease, winning 154 votes.
With their elections, they join Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga in raising the number of women ministers to three. It remains unclear if Amherd and Keller-Sutter will receive the same ministerial posts as the colleagues they are replacing, since the seven ministers in the Federal Council choose their portfolios based on seniority. ---