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Swiss women outnumber men in government
Parliament's election of Simonetta Sommaruga to the federal council puts country at the forefront of sexual equality in politics
A historic vote in the Swiss parliament today has formed an executive consisting of more female ministers than male, propelling the country to the forefront of sexual equality in politics just four decades after it granted women the vote.
The election of Simonetta Sommaruga, of the Social Democratic party, to the seven-member Swiss federal council means there are now four women and three men at the helm of the country's political system. Accepting her new role in French, Italian and German, Sommaruga said the government should work hard to further the rights of minorities.
"The majority must take into account all minorities, whether they be cultural, linguistic, religious, political or of any other kind," she said. MPs, who had been engaged in the four-round vote since the early hours, applauded.
In a country which only gave women the vote in national elections in 1971 – and in which one canton blocked them from local votes until 1990 – the creation of the first female-dominated federal council has been greeted as a symbolic leap forward.
"I think it's wonderful," Anders Johnsson, secretary general of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), told the Associated Press. "When it comes to the executive, most countries drag their feet."
Before the vote, Social Democrats chairman Christian Levrat said a majority women government would be an "essential, decisive step".
The move sees Switzerland join Finland as a country with a female-majority government. Of the 20 ministers in the Finnish cabinet, 11 are women, including the prime minister, Mari Kiviniemi. Finland's president, Tarja Halonen, is also a woman. Countries such as Spain and Norway also have strong female representation in senior government positions.