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The seven members voting with hads raised
The seven-member Swiss cabinet in actionImage: AP

Girl power

September 22, 2010

Switzerland’s governing executive body now has a female majority - after Social Democrat Simonetta Sommaruga was appointed to one of two vacant seats. The seven-member Federal Council is made up of the biggest parties.


For the first time, Switzerland's governing cabinet, or Federal Council has a female majority.

The Swiss parliament appointed 50-year-old consumer advocate and Social Democrat Simonetta Sommaruga to one of two vacant seats in the seven-member cabinet. The election of Sommaruga is a historic step in a country where women only got to vote on a national level in 1971.

The Federal Council is made up of representatives from the biggest parties in Switzerland's consensus-based government. There are seven members of the cabinet and now four of them are female.

Making history

Two seats were made vacant this summer after Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz from the liberal Free Democrats and Infrastructure Minister Moritz Leuenberger from the Social Democrats resigned.

The vote for the second vacant seat of finance minister, which was held later Wednesday, saw Johann Schneider-Ammann win election, denying the female cabinet members a greater majority.

Switzerland's parties are given places on the governing cabinet according to a formula loosely based on how many parliamentary seats they win. There is no prime minister in Switzerland and decisions are made by consensus.

The female-majority cabinet comes less than 40 years after Swiss women gained the right to vote. The alpine nation was one of the last European countries to grant women the vote in 1971. One district only allowed women to vote for the first time in 1990.

Author: Catherine Bolsover (AP/Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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