Ignazio Cassis elected next Swiss president


Swiss FM Ignazio Cassis attends a press conference following his election as the new president of Switzerland by the Federal Assembly in Bern on December 8, 2021. – Cassis will assume the one-year rotating presidency of the country in 2022. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis was elected by Parliament next Wednesday as president of the country, who is expected to lead in 2022 amid growing tensions over the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cassis, which will assume the largely symbolic role on January 1, insisted in his speech of thanks on the fact that “we will not allow ourselves to be divided”.

The choice of Cassis was not a surprise since it is his turn, among the seven members of the Swiss government, to assume the one-year rotating presidency.

The 60-year-old Liberal Conservative Party member, who joined the government in 2017, will continue to be Switzerland’s top diplomat while serving as president.

He will replace Economy Minister Guy Parmelin at the helm.

Cassis was elected with 156 out of 197 possible votes – a relatively low score for the foreign minister, who faced widespread criticism for his blunders and inconsistent messages.

He and Parmelin have come under attack for handling Switzerland’s relations with the European Union, after Berne abruptly ended years of talks in May to seal a cooperation deal with Brussels.

As president, Parmelin broke the bad news, but Cassis has been widely blamed in the media for the debacle and accused of downplaying the fallout from the split with the country’s biggest trading partner.

In Wednesday’s approval vote, Parliament also elected Health Minister Alain Berset as vice president next year, positioning him to become president in 2023.

As the main face of the Swiss response to Covid, Berset has faced widespread abuse from those who oppose the measures and restrictions, and has even faced death threats.

Opponents criticized the requirement to present a so-called Covid certificate to enter many public places, saying it created an “apartheid” system.

They called a referendum last month against the law behind the laissez-passer, but following a tense campaign marked by unprecedented levels of hostility in the usually quiet country, 62% of voters showed support.

Cassis expressed optimism on Wednesday that the divisions could be healed, insisting the Swiss could rise to the challenge and find themselves “stronger and more united than ever”.

A doctor by training, Cassis will only be the fifth politician from the Italian-speaking minority in Switzerland to hold the presidency.


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