Switzerland News & Current Events
Switzerland Joins the UN and Moves to the Right Politically
On Sept 10, 2002, the Swiss abandoned their long-held neutrality to become the 190th member of the UN.
In Oct. 2003, Switzerland took a turn to the right when the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) had the strongest showing in parliamentary elections, garnering 28% of the vote. Its virulently anti-immigration, anti-EU leader, Christopher Blocher, was given a cabinet position. The SVP fared well again in October 2007 elections, winning 29% of the vote and gaining seven seats in Parliament. The party took the most votes in general election history. Immigration dominated the election, and the SVP was accused of running a racist campaign. In December, the coalition that has run Switzerland since 1959 fell apart when the SVP withdrew from the government to protest Parliament's ouster of Blocher as justice minister. The move shifted the government to the center-left.
On June 1, 2008, 64% of voters opposed a law initiated by the SVP that would allow secret votes by the public to grant citizenship to foreigners in their towns. However, 57.5% of voters passed a referendum in Nov. 2009 banning the construction of new minarets on mosques. The SVP sponsored the referendum, saying minarets are a symbol of Islamization. Several Western countries and Muslims around the world criticized the vote as discriminatory and intolerant.
Switzerland has First-Ever Female Majority in Cabinet
The Sept. 22, 2010, elections gave the Swiss cabinet its first-ever female majority. Less than 40 years after women won the right to vote, Social Democrat Simonetta Sommaruga became the fourth female in the seven-member Federal Council.
In Dec., 2011, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf was elected president with 179 of 239 votes, becoming the third consecutive female president. Ueli Maurer was elected vice president. With her election, Widmer-Schlumpf became the first Conservative Democrat to serve as Swiss president.
Ueli Maurer took office as president in Jan. 2013 after garnering 148 of 202 votes in the Federal Assembly. Didier Burkhalter was elected vice president.
On Dec. 4, 2013, Didier Burkhalter was elected president for 2014 after receiving 183 of 202 votes in the Federal Assembly. Simonetta Sommaruga was elected vice president. Burkhalter took office on Jan. 1, 2014.
Early in Feb. 2014, a referendum calling for quotas on EU migrants passed with 50.3% of the vote. Critics point out that this move conflicts with a primary principle of the EU single market—freedom of movement.
Simonetta Sommaruga became president in Jan. 2015, with Johann Schneider-Ammann serving as vice president. Sommaruga is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland. She is related to prominent humanitarian Cornelio Sommaruga.
Schneider-Ammann succeeded Sommaruga and became president on Jan. 1, 2016. A member of the Free Democratic Party, Schneider-Ammann was elected to the Swiss Federal Council in 2010. A former electrical engineer, he has a masters in business administration from INSEAD in France.