Johann Schneider-Ammann, the 66-year-old Swiss economics minister, is to retire on December 21st this year.
The announcement was made by Dominique de Buman, the president of the National Council, Switzerland’s lower house of parliament, on Tuesday morning.
In a statement from Schneider-Ammann read out by de Buman, the outgoing minister and member of Switzerland’s seven-member government executive known as the Federal Council, said it had been “an extraordinary honour to serve Switzerland.”
Schneider-Ammann entered the Federal Council in 2010 but Swiss media have increasingly questioned his energy levels in recent weeks after reports he was dozing off in meetings.
His successor is expected to be chosen on December 5th, with FDP senator Karin Keller-Sutter, who Schneider-Ammann beat out to join the Federal Council in 2010, being tipped as a red-hot favourite to replace him.
Members of the Swiss Federal Council are elected by the parliament. Each of its seven federal councillors is head of one of the government's departments or ministries and is elected for a four-year term.
The cabinet contains representatives of the country’s major political parties with the make-up based on an informal equation known as the magic formula. Factors including gender and language are also looked at when members are chosen.
This is positive news for Keller-Sutter as the FDP has two seats on the council, one of which is already filled by a man in current foreign minister Ignazio Cassis.
In any case, vetting for any possible candidates to fill the missing spot is expected to be intense.
In 2017, Geneva politician Pierre Maudet of the FDP ran for a place on the cabinet but eventually lost out to fellow party member Cassis. However, Maudet, until recently a rising star of Swiss politics, is now being investigated on suspicion he accepted benefits in relation to a private trip he made to Abu Dhabi in late 2015.
Christian Democrats Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard, the current minister of transport, is also expected to step down from the cabinet by autumn 2019 at the latest, which marks the end of the current legislature.
This could mean two new faces on the Federal Council in a relatively short space of time.