Switzerland elects women for top 3 jobs in politics

Wed Dec 2, 2009 6:58am EST
 
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ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland, where women could not vote in national elections until 1971, will have female politicians in the country's top political jobs next year for the first time.

Christian Democrat Economy Minister Doris Leuthard was chosen on Wednesday to hold the Swiss presidency in 2010.

Social Democrat Pascale Bruderer is to be the speaker of parliament's lower house and at 32-years-old is the youngest ever to fill this job. Free Democrat Erika Forster-Vannini will be speaker of the upper house, or Council of States.

Leuthard takes over from Hans-Rudolf Merz, a liberal Free Democrat also in charge of the finance ministry who has come under heavy fire this year for giving up Swiss bank secrecy under international pressure, and for a clash with Libya.

Her election to the presidency was uncontested as she is the longest-serving cabinet member not yet to have held this role.

In the conservative rural canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, women only won the right to vote in local elections in 1990 under pressure from a national court.

Women now represent nearly 30 percent of parliamentarians in the two chambers, according to the Swiss statistical office.

Equality between men and women became a constitutional right in 1981 in Switzerland but a federal law banning discrimination in the workplace only came into force in 1996.

(Reporting by Lisa Jucca; Editing by Louise Ireland)