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Swiss president to retire from politics

Swiss president to retire from politics

Switzerland's president and foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, said Wednesday that she will bow out of politics at the end of the year, closing a long public career marked by an outspoken style and dashes of controversy.
The 66-year-old Social Democrat told a news conference in the capital, Bern, that she will not stand for re-election in December to the Federal Council. Its seven members take turns each year serving as president, a largely ceremonial role that's considered as being "first among equals."
Calmy-Rey is the Federal Council's longest serving member. She won election in 2002 after rising through Geneva's cantonal government to become its finance chief. She grew up in the canton Valais, studied political science in Geneva and then ran a book distribution business for 20 years.
She served as president once before while on the council, in 2007. But her tenure as foreign minister is what drew the most accolades and criticisms.
She said her "active and engaged foreign policy" helped the Alpine nation stay neutral and prosperous. In December, however, Swiss lawmakers delivered what state radio DRS called a "slap in the face" to Calmy-Rey when they approved her presidency with an extraordinarily low amount of votes.
Lawmakers used the routine vote to vent their anger over her handling of an embarrassing spat with Libya's then-leader, Moammar Gadhafi. Though she won the post of head of state for 2011, it was with the worst backing in 90 years _ just 106 out of 189 valid votes.
The vote came days after a parliamentary committee criticized the foreign minister for failing to properly consult the Federal Council about plans to rescue two Swiss citizens detained in Libya.
The episode turned into a major embarrassment for Switzerland after it lost the backing of European allies and was forced to apologize for the 2008 arrest of one of Gadhafi's sons in Geneva.
The committee said Calmy-Rey should have disclosed her department's plans to use Swiss special forces to rescue the men from Tripoli, where they were held for over a year for allegedly violating residency laws and operating a business illegally.
The military rescue plan never came close to being carried out, and the two men were eventually freed after a journey through Libyan courts. But the plan was seen by lawmakers as an example of Calmy-Rey's imperious style, which runs counter to the tradition of inclusive decision-making in Switzerland's multiparty government.
Still, the Federal Council praised Calmy-Rey's governing approach in a statement read Wednesday by government spokesman Andre Simonazzi.
"She led Swiss diplomacy with toughness and passion, making great efforts to develop awareness of Switzerland in the international arena," Simonazzi said. Calmy-Rey, he said, was "committed to the principle of collegiality and the constant search for consensus."


Updated : 2020-12-05 02:53 GMT+08:00