Greens parliamentarian Lea Steinle had left the chamber to breastfeed her child Miro. But when she tried to return to the chamber to cast a vote, cantonal president Remo Gallacchi of the Christian Democrats (CVP) barred her from doing so.
Protests ensued with Socialist parliamentarian Danielle Kaufmann saying: “There is no way an elected politician can not be allowed in the chamber because she has a baby that needs to be breastfeed.”
Gallacchi responded by saying the decision was his. “It’s basically just us here. But where do we draw the line. With one-month-olds? With two-month-olds. With or without prams?"
After five minutes of heated discussion on how to proceed, the president backtracked on his decision and allowed Steinle and her child to re-enter the parliament.
Gallacchi went on to tell the TeleBasel television channel that the issue wasn’t about Steinle but rather about who had access to the parliamentary chamber, which was a “purely technical issue”. The current rules state that only parliamentarians and staff can enter.
Völlig falsche Anschuldigung. Der Zutritt zum Grossratssaal ist klar geregelt und der Präsident ist für die Einhaltung verantwortlich. Anstatt anstandslos rumzupöbeln, könnte sich die SP ja im Ratsbüro für eine Änderung des Reglements einsetzen. #Doyourjob pic.twitter.com/cSgCqmEU6d— Patrick Huber (@PatrickS_Huber) November 21, 2018
But Gallacchi later described his decision as clumsy and said that a working group would try and come up with a practical solution before the next session of the regional parliament.
Grossratspräsident Remo Gallacchi zu seinem heutigen Entscheid, Grossrätin Lea Steinle nicht mit Baby in den Grossratssaal zu lassen: „Der Entscheid war ungeschickt. Bis zur nächsten Grossratssitzung wird das Ratsbüro eine pragmatische Lösung erarbeiten“.#GrosserRatBS— Kanton Basel-Stadt (@BaselStadt) November 21, 2018
For Lea Steinle, however, the issue is not over. “I was voted for by the people and that means I was denied my right to vote in the chamber,” she told Swiss regional daily BZ.
She said the decision to bar her from re-entering the chamber had been discriminatory and that everyone must have the possibility of participating in parliament, “including young mothers”.
Wednesday’s events come hot on the heels of the decision of Gallacchi’s party, the CVP, to nominate two women as candidates for the Swiss Federal Council – a decision widely lauded. The party also positions itself as a defender of family values.
A spokesperson for the Swiss parliament in Bern told The Local that female politicians sometimes brought infants into the upper house and lower house during debates, although without actually breastfeeding their children in the chambers.
Parliamentary rules did not explicit cover the presence of babies and it was up to the discretion of the Presiding Colleges of the Councils when it came to interpreting the regulations, the spokesperson said.
The Local has contacted the CVP for comment.