Breaking: President of Switzerland announces he will quit at end of 2023
The President of Switzerland and Federal Councillor Alain Berset has announced that he will be stepping down at the end of this year. His announcement follows 12 years as a member of the Federal Council for the Social Democratic Party (SP), who have now announced a contest to choose his successor.
Alain Berset to step down at end of 2023
At a press conference on June 21, Alain Berset announced that he will be stepping down as Federal Councillor, head of the Department of Internal Affairs and president by the end of 2023. "I've always given everything as Federal Councillor," he told reporters, but said that the last three years were an “extraordinarily intense experience.”
After admitting that he considered leaving in 2019, he made the point that with the passing of the COVID-19 Act on the weekend, now seemed the right time to announce that he would be stepping down. Technically speaking, Berset said that the statement is “not a resignation. It's an announcement that I'm not going to continue at the end of the year."
Who is President Alain Berset?
Born in Fribourg in 1972, Berset’s career started as a lecturer at the University of Neuchâtel before joining the communal parliament for Belfaux and becoming a consultant for the government of Neuchâtel in 2002. In 2003, Berset was elected as the SP Council of States representative for Fribourg.
In December 2011, Berset would be elected to the executive Federal Council and become the head of the Department of Internal Affairs - which includes departments for culture, gender equality, weather, statistics and, crucially, healthcare. Indeed, most expats will remember Berset for his role during the COVID pandemic in crafting and announcing restrictions on behalf of the government. He would also be president and vice president twice.
The scandals of Berset
Berset is not a politician immune to scandal, including a blackmailing affair with an alleged lover in 2019, blocking the construction of a 5G antenna outside his house in Belfaux and causing the French Air Force to scramble fighter jets after he accidentally flew his private plane into French airspace in 2022.
His biggest scandal, however, was when his former head of communications, Peter Lauener, was accused of leaking crucial COVID policy to the press, an affair that led to Berset being interrogated by police. He said he did not know whether or not Lauener passed on the information.
Social Democratic Party to announce successor in December
In concluding his statement, he thanked his colleagues, family and “everyone who is always very committed to working for the Interior Department.” The Social Democratic Party, the party entitled to his spot in the Federal Council, announced that a competition to appoint his successor would be held by the end of the year.
However, representatives of the Green Party have told 20 Minuten that they are debating a plan to contest the seat in December. If they succeed, it will be the first time that the party has ever held a position in the Federal Council.
When asked whether a return to frontline politics would be on the cards in the future, Berset joked that he was going to “take up yoga” instead. However, it is likely that the famously hatted Federal Councillor will remain in the public conversation long after he leaves parliament.
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