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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 12:51 GMT
Swiss MPs reject far-right leader
Christoph Blocher
Christoph Blocher is a popular speaker at SVP rallies
Swiss parliamentarians have forced far-right politician Christoph Blocher from his cabinet seat, despite his party's record success in recent polls.

MPs voted against keeping Mr Blocher, a leader of the nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP), in the cabinet.

The SVP won 29% of the vote in October elections - the highest share ever polled by a single party, though not enough to form its own government.

The SVP's election campaign was criticised as racist by the UN.

The run-up to the polls also saw rioting in the city of Bern, when left-wing and anarchist groups tried to disrupt an SVP rally.

Fiery nationalism

Mr Blocher, a justice minister in the last government, lost his cabinet seat after receiving the backing of only 115 of parliament's 246 MPs.

All four of Switzerland's major political parties are represented in the country's Federal Council, in a unique system of government by consensus.

The left-of-centre Social Democrats and centrist Christian Democrats formed an alliance to keep Mr Blocher out of the cabinet.

The two parties instead supported a lesser-known SVP member, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, as an alternative to the right-wing leader.

Ms Widmer-Schlumpf is regarded as more moderate than Mr Blocher.

A popular speaker at SVP election rallies, Mr Blocher is a billionaire industrialist with a reputation for fiery nationalism and scathing attacks on immigration.

Mr Blocher's uncompromising stance is also believed to have earned him enemies in parliament.

The SVP was criticised by the UN for an election campaign poster that called for immigrants charged with crimes to be deported along with their families.

SEE ALSO
Record poll win for Swiss right
22 Oct 07 |  Europe
Swiss vote after ugly campaign
19 Oct 07 |  Europe
Profile: Christoph Blocher
15 Oct 07 |  Europe
Country profile: Switzerland
16 Oct 07 |  Country profiles

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