Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:40:25 PM EST
The other day there was an article about the Diverging paths on gender equality in Italy and Spain. In other countries like France and the UK, this has been a topic of discussion too. Thus, I thought it would be interesting to look at the situation in Switzerland. Most people seem to remember that Swiss women got the voting rights only in 1972, but few seem to know what has happened to women equality in Switzerland since then. This diary will focus on Swiss women in politics, especially the counsillors in government.
First, just a short overview: since 1972 the women in the Federal Council went from 0 to 3 of 7. Of all the female councillors since 1972, 2 also held the position of Swiss President, 4 were Vice Presidents, and currently an other women holds an equally important position - that of Federal Chancellor.
Following is a short overview of the women who served in the Swiss executive since 1972. But first some information on the Federal Council itself.
Executive power in Switzerland is held by the seven-member cabinet. - swissinfo
The Swiss government, known since 1848 as the Federal Council, consists of a cabinet made up of seven members.
Cabinet members are nominated by their parties, and are elected at a joint session of parliament.
Since 1943 cabinet posts have been shared out among the four main parties, the Social Democratic Party, the Radical Party, the Swiss People's Party and the Christian Democratic Party.
A fundamental tenet of the four-party cabinet is the need to reach consensus.
There is no prime minister. The position of president rotates among cabinet ministers every year.
It took a while until the first woman was elected into the Bundesrat, the Swiss Federal Council.
|Elisabeth Kopp, FDP, was elected in 1984 and served until 1989. She was responsible for the Justice and Police Department. In 1989 she was Vice President and would have become the first female President of Switzerland, if she wouldn't have had to step down. Her husband was a board member of a company (see details in the wiki) that was involved with international crime. When she became aware of an investigation she called him, to warn him and tell him to step down from that position. Swiss women were very disappointed and many opinionated that if the same situation would have happened to a male councillor, he would not have had to step down.|
|Ruth Dreifuss, SP, was the next woman to be elected into the Federal Council in 1993. Before she could be elected some shenanigans were going on inside Parliament (see the wiki), so in the end there was the peculiar situation at that time that they had to choose between two women, of which Ruth Dreifuss was elected in the end. She held the Federal Department of Home Affairs. In 1998 she became Vice President and the following year the first female President of Switzerland. She was also the only Jew being President of Switzerland so far. But her religion was never a topic, nor is it a topic in elections here. See resigned after almost 10 years in 2002.|
|Ruth Metzler-Arnold, CVP, followed in 1999. Her election was unspectacular compared to the other female councillors' elections and she held the Federal Department of Justice and Police. In 2003 she became Vice President and would have held the Presidency if... if it wouldn't have been for Christoph Blocher of the SVP. In 2003 she was not reelected, due to power games behind the scene, as most women believed. Because if one looks at her record as councillor, her non-election to keep the Magic Formula intact, was not justified.|
Now to the current female members of the Federal Council:
|Micheline Calmy-Rey , SP, was elected in 2002 and holds the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. In 2006 she was Vice President and held the Presidency in 2007. So far her tenure has been unspectacular, except for the criticism she received for signing a gas contract with Iran.|
|Doris Leuthard, CVP, joined in 2006 and holds the Federal Department of Economic Affairs. Not much I can think of to write about her. She seems to be well liked. If nothing unforeseen happens she will be the next female President of Switzerland.|
|Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, SVP, was elected in December 2007, sort of as a slap at Christoph Blocher (initiator of the black sheep ad). (See the Salon thread on the elections and the diary Yipeee!!!! Swiss Bundesrat Blocher ousted!.) Women rejoiced, as they have not forgotten what has been done to Ruth Metzler. Not much can yet be said about Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf as member of the Federal Council, except, that she holds the Federal Department of Justice and Police. Currently the SVP, Party of Blocher, is trying to expel her from the party. However, that is a topic for a separate diary.|
A position that is considered equivalent to one in the Federal Council is the
Federal Chancellery - Federal Chancellery
The Federal Chancellery with its staff of some 250 people has been headed by Federal Chancellor Corina Casanova since January 2008.
The Federal Council's staff office
The Federal Chancellery provides services to the Federal Council and the Federal Assembly as well as to the population. It periodically adjusts its service portfolio to the new challenges and needs.
|Corina Casanova holds currently the position of Federal Chancellor since January 2008. It is not a very visible positions and not much is heard about the people holding it.|
Thus out of the 8 top positions in the Swiss government, 4 are held by women - you could say, divided equally between women and men.
According to a poll, the Swiss people seem to like their female councillors.
|Beliebteste Bundesratsmitglieder sind die Bundesrätinnen - Newsticker - Tages-Anzeiger||The Most Popular Federal Council members are the female Federal Councillors - News - Tages-Anzeiger|
| Doris Leuthard, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf und Micheline Calmy-Rey sind die beim Wahlvolk beliebtesten Mitglieder der Landesregierung. Vier von fünf Wahlberechtigten (79 Prozent) wünschen Doris Leuthard eine wichtige politische Rolle.||Doris Leuthard, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf and Micheline Calmy-Rey are the members of the Federal Government most popular with the public. Four out of five voters (79 percent) wish Doris Leuthard an important political role.|
| Der im Dezember neu gewählten Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf wünschen dies 68 Prozent von 1010 im Auftrag der "SonntagsZeitung" befragten Wahlberechtigten. Mit ihr gleichauf liegt Micheline Calmy-Rey. Beliebtester Mann im Bundesrat ist Samuel Schmid mit 67 Prozent.||68 percent of 1010 voters surveyed on behalf of the "SamstagsZeitung" newspaper wish the same for Eveline Widmer Schlumpf, who was newly elected in December. On par with her is Micheline Calmy-Rey. The most popular man on the Federal Council was Samuel Schmid, with 67 percent.|
| Hans-Rudolf Merz kommt auf 61 und Moritz Leuenberger auf 59 Prozent. Abgeschlagen auf dem letzten Platz liegt Pascal Couchepin mit einem Wert von 34 Prozent. 60 Prozent der Befragten wünschen dem derzeitigen Bundespräsidenten keine wichtige Rolle.||Hans-Rudolf Merz received 61 and Moritz Leuenberger 59 percent. Lagging behind on the last place is Pascal Couchepin with a value of 34 percent. 60 percent of respondents do not want the current federal president to hold an important role.|
So at the executive level, in Switzerland, after only 36 years, women's equality looks good. Of course I picked the rosiest example to start with. Even though the situation seems to be slowly improving in Parliament, it is not quite as advanced as it is at the highest level. However, that is a topic for another diary.