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Introducing... Doris Leuthard

Published: 04 May 2012 14:50 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 May 2012 11:12 GMT+02:00

Introducing... is The Local's new column giving the lowdown on a top Swiss personality. This week Lyssandra Sears looks at the woman who was recently voted Switzerland’s favourite politician and once got wellied at the Mountain Cheese Olympics.

Who is she and why is she famous?

Doris Leuthard is a trained lawyer and member of the Christian Democratic People’s Party. She was voted onto the Federal Council in 2006, and elected as president in 2010. Having served as economic affairs minister until 2010, she is currently head of the Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications.

She was president? But she’s… a woman.

She is a woman, that’s correct. She is, more precisely, the fifth woman ever to be elected to the Federal Council, Switzerland's government.

In fact, at the time she was elected, all three rotating governmental posts were filled by women. She was so was chuffed with this that she organized a special event, inviting 700 women from all over Switzerland to talk about everything from being a grandmother to working unusual jobs.

She was also recently voted Switzerland’s most popular politician in a survey by two Sunday newspapers.

Just why is she so popular then?

Well it might have something to do with the fact that she likened German anti-noise campaigners to the Taliban…

What?!

Yes, she said the southern German campaigners were like Taliban terrorists trying to sabotage Zurich airport, which didn’t go down too well in Germany. They were outraged apparently. But despite a spot of discomfort in the confederation, on the whole a round of cheers went up for Leuthard on the Swiss side.

She speaks her mind...

She does. She didn’t shy away from talking to the pope about child abuse in the church. She also criticized the government for opening up Switzerland’s borders to the EU, and she thinks the initiative to restrict the construction of second homes should be toned down.

Those can’t be the only reasons she was voted the country's favourite politician….

Well, no. She is also busy doing a good job in her role as ministry chief. She flies around the world talking about climate change and trying to get people to agree to doing good. 

Hmm. Flies around the world, doing good, and climate change aren’t generally things that sit comfortably together in one sentence.

Would you rather she cycled herself to the climate summit in Mexico? Or hiked her way to China?

OK, point taken, she’s virtuous. But she’s also a politician. She must screw up?

Of course. She got wellied at a cheese contest in 2009.

Wellied? Not trollied?

No, she’s Swiss, not English. She had lots of wellington boots thrown at her by angry farmers at the sxth Mountain Cheese Olympics in the canton of Jura. She had to be protected by bodyguards with umbrellas. Apparently the farmers were furious that she wouldn’t help them in talks with the Swiss milk producers’ association.

What does she do for laughs?

Well, she doesn’t take public announcements about pony gymkhana trials very seriously for some reason. She had a giggling fit in parliament that did the rounds on YouTube. 

She sounds like a good sport.

She is, just as long as she's not exposed to the holy ire of the cheese olympians.

Lyssandra Sears (news@thelocal.ch)

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