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Cablegate: Swiss Federal Council Elections: Blocher Fails To

VZCZCXRO0133
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSW #1132 3461727
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 121727Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BERN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4744
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS BERN 001132

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/AGS(Y.SAINT-ANDRE)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SZ
SUBJECT: SWISS FEDERAL COUNCIL ELECTIONS: BLOCHER FAILS TO
WIN DECEMBER 12 RE-ELECTION

REF: BERN 1026

--------------------------------------------- -----
BLOCHER NARROWLY DEFEATED: CONFUSION IN PARLIAMENT
--------------------------------------------- ------

1. (SBU) Right up until the voting began, the major Swiss
pundits and insiders were saying that all seven Federal
Councilors would be re-elected on December 12 by the Swiss
Parliament. Justice Minister Christoph Blocher, whose SVP
party had the strongest showing in the October parliamentary
elections (reftel), was expected to garner the slimmest
majority, given opposition to his candidacy by the Social
Democrats (SP), the Greens, and the Chrisitan Democrats
(CVP). Nevertheless, he was still expected to be re-elected.
Swiss politics was therefore stunned when Blocher was
narrowly defeated (125 to 115) in a second round of voting by
another SVP candidate -- Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf -- who
apparently was supported by the SP, Greens, and majority of
the CVP. Whether Widmer-Schlumpf knew in advance that the
SP, Greens, and CVP planned to vote for her en masse remains
an open question. In any case, the outcome was at a minimum
a blunt challenge to the SVP leadership by the center left
parties.

2. (SBU) Widmer-Schlumpf is a cantonal finance minister from
the eastern Canton of Graubuenden, and the daughter of a
former Federal Councilor. When the election results were
announced, she reportedly was on a train, bound for Bern, and
there was confusion in the Parliament as to whether she would
accept her election. Later in the day, it was learned that
Widmer-Schlumpf had said she would need until 8:00 a.m. on
December 13 to make up her mind as to whether she indeed
would accept the position on the Federal Council.

--------------------------------------------
OTHER FEDERAL COUNCILORS ELECTED AS EXPECTED
--------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Prior to the Blocher round, the elections to the
Federal Council went according to script, with Moritz
Leuenberger (SP), Pascal Coucehpin (FDP), Samuel Schmid
(SVP), and Micheline Calmy-Rey (SP) all winning re-election.
The confusion following Blocher's defeat was considerable and
persisted because Widmer-Schlumpf could not be reached, and
it remained unclear whether she would even accept the
election. Parliament nevertheless eventually proceeded with
the remaining two Federal Council elections, re-electing
Hans-Rudolf Merz (FDP) and Doris Leuthard (CVP). Deputy
Chancellor Corina Casanova (CVP) also was elected to assume
the Chancellorship from outgoing Chancellor Annemarie
Huber-Hotz. Finally, and also as expected, the FDP's Pascal
Couchepin was elected to serve as Federal President during
2008. He is expected to assume those duties from Calmy-Rey
at the beginning of January. Following these elections, the
six re-elected Federal Council members all took the oath of
office, and Parliament adjourned until the morning of
December 13.

-----------------------------------
SVP THREATENS TO GO INTO OPPOSITION
-----------------------------------

4. (SBU) Not surprisingly, Widmer-Schlumpf's election (and
Blocher's defeat) caused anger and consternation on the
right, and glee on the left, in Swiss politics. After the
vote, a number of SVP parliamentarians expressed their belief
that Widmer-Schlumpf would not accept her election, and they
reaffirmed the SVP mantra that the SVP would quit the
coalition government and go into parliamentary opposition in
such case. For the time being, Swiss politics is paralyzed
until Widmer-Schlumpf makes public her decision. If she
accepts her election, the Federal Council will be complete,
but Swiss politics will enter uncharted waters. Post will
report more on these developments, including any implications
for U.S.-Swiss relations, as the facts become known.
CONEWAY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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