Simonetta Sommaruga resigns from the Federal Council.
Pascal Tischhauser and Lea Hartmann
Simonetta Sommaruga (62) would have liked to have stayed longer as a member of the Federal Council. But a stroke of fate suddenly thwarted the Environment and Energy Minister’s plans for the future. After twelve years in office, the SP politician is leaving the government at the end of the year, like Finance Minister Ueli Maurer (72).
Ten days ago, her husband, the writer Lukas Hartmann (78), suffered a stroke, Sommaruga justified her decision. The Federal Councilor took a break last week because of the health of her husband, to whom she has been married for 26 years.
Sommaruga announces resignation: “The decision comes abruptly, also for me”(01:58)
Can’t go on
The stroke was a shock for both of them, said the native of Bern at a hastily arranged media conference. The otherwise rather cool and unapproachable politician fought back tears when she spoke of her husband. “Such an event is an incision that comes suddenly and unexpectedly and makes you think,” she said. She couldn’t go on as before. She now wants to consciously set the priorities in her life differently.
With her resignation, Parliament will have two Federal Council seats to fill on December 7th. The SP has little time to find a selection of suitable successors that they can propose to Parliament.
Sommaruga wants to spend the remaining months in office with full commitment. She is happy to be a federal councillor. “And I’ll stay that way until the end.” But after her stroke of fate, contrary to earlier plans, she can no longer imagine remaining in the government.
SP talks about the succession: “The resignation took us completely by surprise”(01:34)
Greatest success: Asylum reform
The native of Bern can look back on twelve years in the Federal Council. From 2010 she headed the Department of Justice and Police (EJPD). Since January 2019 she has been head of the Department for the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (UVEK). She has been President of the Federal Republic twice.
Before she was elected to the Federal Council, the trained concert pianist was a member of the Council of States for the canton of Bern for seven years. Before that, she was a member of the National Council. However, she was never a party soldier – early on she caused trouble in the SP with the “Gurten Manifesto” when she and others suggested a new course to party friends.
Sommaruga’s greatest success as Federal Councilor is certainly the acceleration of the asylum procedure, for which she found a majority in the people: Even against left-wing resistance, she reformed the asylum system by speeding up the asylum procedure. In 2020, the SP woman led the country as Federal President through the first year of the pandemic. And when the situation escalated in the fall, she took matters into her own hands – and out of the hands of party colleague Alain Berset (50).
Women’s Year as a highlight
It is also remembered that in 2013 Sommaruga apologized to former contract children on behalf of the Federal Council. For Co-President Mattea Meyer (34), this is probably the best example of the work of the Federal Councilor. Sommaruga has always placed people at the center of her work. The Federal Councilor herself has particularly fond memories of her first year in the Federal Council, when women were in the majority in the state government.
But there are also political defeats that Sommaruga suffered. In the vote of June 2021, the population sent the revised CO2 law down.
Political leader on resignation: “Sommaruga fought back tears”(05:04)
Not a bad time to go
After Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24 and it became apparent that electricity and gas would be scarce in the winter, she pulled out numerous levers to avoid an energy gap.
For example, the Federal Councilor secured storage capacity for liquid gas in Holland, set up a hydropower reserve and signed the contract for the reserve gas power plant. As the Federal Council informed yesterday, experts are now assuming that there will not be a serious power shortage this winter.
Sommaruga can leave with a clear conscience that she probably saved Switzerland from an energy crisis. However, many construction sites in energy policy remain. But this will probably have to be worked through by her successor in the UVEK.
Political scientist Claude Longchamp: Who has the greatest potential for the Sommaruga successor?(05:33)