Second resignation in a week: Swiss environment minister to quit government

George Mills
George Mills - [email protected]
Second resignation in a week: Swiss environment minister to quit government
Doris Leuthard was elected to the Federal Council in 2006. File photo: AFP

Switzerland's Environment Minister Doris Leuthard is to step down from the seven-member Swiss government, known as the Federal Council, at the end of the year.


The announcement comes just two days after Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann stated he would also retire from the government before Christmas.

The news of Leuthard’s upcoming retirement came in the form a statement from the minister read out by Dominique de Buman, the president of the National Council, Switzerland's lower house of parliament.

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As was the case with Schneider-Ammann’s announcement earlier in the week, news of Leuthard’s departure was not entirely unexpected.

Leuthard, who is the longest-serving member of the Federal Council after being elected in 2006 and who has headed up the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications since 2010, had previously stated she planned to resign in autumn 2019 at the latest.

However, by announcing she will step down from government at the end of this year, Leuthard has paved the way for an intriguing situation where two seats on the seven-member Federal Council will become vacant at the same time.

This election to the council which includes representatives of the country’s major political parties is expected to take place on December 5th, although that date is yet to be confirmed.

After Schneider-Ammann said he was retiring, there were calls for his place to be taken by a woman. There are currently just two women on the seven-member Federal Council – Leuthard herself and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga.

With Leuthard’s departure, there could, in theory, be just one woman in the Swiss government. However, there are now likely to be calls for both the outgoing ministers to be replaced by women.

Leuthard is the only member of the Christian Democrats (CVP) on the Federal Council. The left-wing Socialists, the centrist Liberals (FDP) and the right-wing Swiss People's Party all have two seats.

The division of seats on the Federal Council is based on the so-called "magic formula" – an unwritten agreement which sees the major Swiss parties sharing out posts in the government in a way that is loosely dependent on their electoral success.

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