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Swiss cabinet agrees on new distribution of roles in reshuffle

The Swiss government agreed to make newcomer Elisabeth Baume-Schneider from the centre-left Social Democrats the country’s new justice minister. The other new face, Albert Rösti of the rightwing People’s Party, will take charge of the department of the environment, transport, energy and communications.

 Karin Keller-Sutter from the centre-right Liberals will be the country’s new finance minister in a cabinet reshuffle sparked by the resignations of two members.

Keller-Sutter replaces Ueli Maurer, who is retiring from the start of next year, in the seven-member cabinet.

Rösti will take over from Simonetta Sommaruga, a Social Democrat, who is stepping down to help care for her husband, who is recovering from a stroke.

Other members of the cabinet kept their jobs following the reshuffle, including Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.

Under the Swiss model of consensus government, it’s the seven government ministers themselves who decide the allocation of the seven departments. The principle of seniority applies. This means that the longest-serving member gets first choice and the others follow based on the date of their election to the Federal Council.

These choices are then approved by the entire seven-member body. If they cannot agree, a vote is held. But no one is allowed to object. According to parliamentary regulations, Federal Council members have to accept the department assigned to them by their peers.

“The aim of the informal meeting was to find the best distribution of tasks in the interests of the country”, while bearing in mind each person’s interests, said Cassis, who also holds this year's rotating presidency, at a press conference.

With the departure of Maurer and Sommaruga, Interior Minister Alain Berset is now the most senior member of cabinet. He will take on the rotating role of Swiss president next year, parliament has decided.