Christoph Blocher

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Christoph Blocher
Christoph Blocher (Bundesrat, 2004).jpg
Member of the Swiss Federal Council
In office
1 January 2004 – 31 December 2007
Preceded by Ruth Metzler
Succeeded by Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police
In office
1 January 2004 – 31 December 2007
Preceded by Ruth Metzler
Succeeded by Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Personal details
Born (1940-10-11) 11 October 1940 (age 73)
Schaffhausen, Switzerland
Political party Swiss People's Party
Spouse(s) Silvia Blocher
Children 4
Religion Swiss Reformed

Christoph Blocher (born 11 October 1940, Schaffhausen, Switzerland) is a Swiss politician, industrialist, and former member of the Swiss Federal Council heading the Federal Department of Justice and Police (2004–2007). He serves as Vice President of the Swiss People's Party. As an industrialist, he made a fortune in the chemical industry with the EMS-Chemie corporation.

Family[edit]

He is married to the former Silvia Kaiser; they have three daughters and a son.

Education[edit]

Blocher earned a certificate at the Wülflingen school of agriculture, then studied law at the University of Zürich, in Montpellier and in Paris. He has a DEA degree in law, and in 1971, he was awarded a doctorate in jurisprudence.

Political career[edit]

Blocher built his political career through campaigning for smaller government, for a free-market economy, against Switzerland's membership in the European Union and for more tightly controlled immigration. He represented the canton of Zürich in the Swiss National Council from 1980 until his election to the federal council in 2003 as a deputy of the Swiss People's Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei/Union démocratique du centre; SVP/UDC). In addition to the Zürich chapter of the Swiss People's Party, he led a mass organisation, the Action for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland (Aktion für eine unabhängige und neutrale Schweiz).

Federal councillor[edit]

2003 election[edit]

The People's Party emerged as the largest party in the National Council in the Federal Assembly election of 19 October 2003. Blocher personally topped the poll in Zürich, and became Switzerland's most prominent and controversial politician.

Since 1929, the People's Party (known until 1971 as the Party of Farmers, Traders and Independents [BGB]) had held a seat on the seven-member Swiss Federal Council. At the time the current coalition was formed in 1959, the BGB was the smallest party represented on the Council. By 2003, it had become the largest party, and demanded another seat at the expense of the Christian Democrats, now the smallest party. The SVP nominated Blocher as its second candidate. This generated a good deal of controversy; previously most SVP councillors came from the party's more moderate centrist-agrarian wing.

After threats of pulling the other People's Party member, Samuel Schmid (a member of the centrist wing), off the council and going into opposition, Blocher was elected on 10 December 2003. He took the seat of Ruth Metzler-Arnold, only the third federal councillor in history (and the first since 1872) not to be reelected.

In the third round Blocher beat Metzler with 121 to 116 votes.[1] The election was anticipated as a major media event (NZZ, 8 December 2003), and widely watched as a live broadcast. After Blocher's election, there were spontaneous protests by members of the Swiss political Left (Tages-Anzeiger, 12 December 2003).

Controversies[edit]

As a result of a reshuffling of Federal Council seats, Blocher became head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police.

In December 2003, the New York Times published a letter from the Anti-Defamation League citing Blocher, who had been convicted for anti-Semitic libel by a Zürich court in 1999, for making anti-semitic remarks in relation to claims for restitution of Nazi-seized assets that were hidden in Swiss banks. Blocher declared that Jews "were only interested in money.".[2] The letter also reported that in 1997, Blocher had stated the following that had resulted in his 1999 conviction: "They (the Jews) could blackmail banks, you can blackmail governments, you can blackmail national banks, you can force them to give in. (But) I would like to see if they can blackmail an entire people at the ballot box. They have to get through the eye of this needle, and I will do my utmost that we do not yield."

During 2004, Blocher's unconventionally unaccommodating stance towards his fellow federal councillors was the cause for speculations about the future of the Swiss concordance system. He was attacked by his colleague Pascal Couchepin in an interview with the NZZ newspaper in the Sunday 3 October edition. This was unprecedented in Switzerland; members of the Federal Council traditionally do not publicly criticise each other.

In a public speech held at his cantonal party's annual Albisgüetlitagung in Zürich on 20 January 2006, Blocher labeled two Albanians seeking political asylum as "criminals", although no judicial sentence had been spoken at the time. Later, when confronted, he claimed before the Swiss Council of States that he had only used the word 'accused'. Since the speech had been recorded, he then had to admit that he had used the word "criminals". In July 2006, a commission of the Council of States reprimanded Blocher, stating that the setting of false prejudice and making false statement to the Council of States constituted unacceptable behaviour for a Federal Councillor.

Civil unrest in Lausanne in the wake of anti-Blocher protests of 18 September

On 5 September 2007, a parliamentary committee sharply criticised Blocher for overstepping his mandate in his handling of the resignation of former chief prosecutor Valentin Roschacher in 2006. In addition, documents confiscated in March by the German authorities from private banker Oskar Holenweger under suspicion of money laundering were presented as supporting a possible involvement of Blocher in a plot to oust Roschacher from office. Blocher denied any involvement in such a plan. These developments happened to coincide with a campaign alleging a "secret plan to oust Blocher" initiated by the SVP on 27 August, and party spokesperson S. R. Jäggi on 6 September confirmed that campaign was referring to the documents incriminating Blocher in the Roschacher affair now revealed.[3][4] Tension surrounding the "Blocher-Roschacher affair" was fuelled by the upcoming 2007 federal election. On 25 September, the National Council decided to press a debate of the affair before the elections, overturning a decision by the council's office.

Blocher was a target for the opposition on 18 September 2007, when his appearance at the Comptoir suisse (Swiss fair) in Lausanne was disrupted by protesters.[5]

In January, 2012, it was reported that Blocher had received information from an unnamed whistleblower regarding foreign exchange trades at Bank Sarasin made by Swiss National Bank chairman Philipp Hildebrand's wife Kashya.[6] The alleged whistleblower was subsequently fired and faced criminal investigations under Swiss banking secrecy laws. Hildebrand denied accusations of insider trading, claimed to be the "victim of a smear campaign" and said that his political foes endangered the secrecy laws and "the interests of Switzerland" with the accusations.[7] Blocher had called for Hildebrand's resignation in 2011 in the wake of SNB's foreign exchange-related losses[6] and continued strong calls after the FX-trades story grew,[8] before Hildebrand ultimately resigned.

2007 failed reelection[edit]

Demonstration in Lausanne on the 8 December to call for Christoph Blocher to be ousted from the Federal Council in the upcoming elections. Blocher was replaced by Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf four days later.

In the Swiss Federal Council elections of 12 December 2007, Blocher did not receive the necessary number of votes in the parliament to retain his seat. In his stead, the parliament elected Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (a moderate SVP member), who accepted the mandate on 13 December 2007.[9] Blocher thus became the fourth federal councillor to be ousted from office in the history of the Swiss Federal State, following Ruth Metzler whom he had replaced the previous term, besides Ulrich Ochsenbein and Jean-Jacques Challet-Venel in the 19th century.

2008 candidacy[edit]

Following the resignation of federal councillor Samuel Schmid on 12 November 2008, Blocher decided to run for the office again. The People's Party nominated him together with Ueli Maurer. In view of the 2007 election results, Blocher's chances to be re-elected were thought to be very slim.[10] Not surprisingly, he had no chance of being re-elected and had to make room for his party colleague Ueli Maurer, who won the election in the end.

Future[edit]

After the extremely large 2007/2008 losses posted by UBS, its chairman Marcel Ospel resigned on 1 April 2008, and Mr. Blocher was rumoured to be considered as his replacement.[11][12] However the role went to Peter Kurer, the bank’s general counsel.

Blocher was important in the success of the February 9, 2014 referendum on immigration quotas in Switzerland and continues to support policies designed to limit immigration to Switzerland.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ruth Metzler
Member of the Swiss Federal Council
2004-2007
Succeeded by
Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf