Ueli Maurer

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For the professor of cryptography, see Ueli Maurer (cryptographer).
Ueli Maurer
Ueli Maurer 2011.jpg
Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Incumbent
Assumed office
1 January 2009
Preceded by Samuel Schmid
President of Switzerland
In office
1 January 2013 – 31 December 2013
Vice President Didier Burkhalter
Preceded by Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Succeeded by Didier Burkhalter
Vice President of Switzerland
In office
1 January 2012 – 31 December 2012
President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Preceded by Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Succeeded by Didier Burkhalter
Head of the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports
Incumbent
Assumed office
1 January 2009
Preceded by Samuel Schmid
Personal details
Born (1950-12-01) 1 December 1950 (age 63)
Wetzikon, Switzerland
Political party Swiss People's Party
Children 6
Religion Swiss Reformed

Ulrich[1] "Ueli" Maurer (born 1 December 1950 in Wetzikon) is a member of the Swiss Federal Council and head of the Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (the Swiss defence minister). As a leading figure in the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party,[2] he was elected by the Swiss Federal Assembly to succeed Federal Councillor Samuel Schmid in the Swiss Federal Council election of 10 December 2008 and took office on 1 January 2009. He served as President of the Swiss Confederation for the year 2013.

Personal background and professional career[edit]

Maurer grew up as the son of a poor farmer in the Zürcher Oberland.[3][4] After a commercial apprenticeship, Maurer received a federal accountant's diploma. He was director of the Zürich Farmers' Association from 1994 to 2008, and was president of the Swiss Vegetable Farmers' Association and the Farmers' Machinery Association (Maschinenring) until his election to the Federal Council.

Currently resident in Hinwil in the canton of Zürich, Maurer is married and has six children. He has served in the Swiss Army with the rank of major,[5] commanding a bicycle infantry battalion.[6]

Political career[edit]

Cantonal politics[edit]

From 1978 to 1986, Maurer was a member of the municipal government of Hinwil. He was elected to the cantonal parliament of Zürich in 1983, which he presided over in 1991. In that year, he lost an election to the cantonal government against Moritz Leuenberger, as his opponents derided Maurer's campaign as inept and himself as a naïve devotee of party strongman Christoph Blocher.[4] In the same year's national election, though, Maurer was elected to the National Council.

National career and party presidency[edit]

In 1996, at Blocher's behest,[4] Maurer was elected president of the Swiss People's Party. Not taken seriously at first[4][7] and parodied by TV comedian Viktor Giacobbo as Blocher's servile sycophant[4][8] so memorably that his taunted children regularly returned from school in tears,[8] his presidency saw the party double its voter base, establish itself in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and become the country's strongest political party.[3] These successes have been largely credited to Maurer's leadership, who was able to make up a lack of charisma with astonishingly hard work,[8] the imposition of strict party discipline, a keen sense for promising populist issues (such as opposition to European integration, foreigners and political correctness)[4] as well as a penchant for headline-grabbing soundbites, as attested by an often-cited statement of his: "As long as I talk of negroes, the camera stays on me".[9][10]

As president of the People's Party, Maurer was a leading force behind the party's aggressive and successful populist campaigns – campaigns that drew the ire of the Swiss political mainstream and the concern of foreign observers[11] – signing off on cartoonish posters attacking leftists, foreigners and other undesirables.[9] In a breach with Swiss political etiquette, he did not shy away from direct personal attacks on fellow politicians, labeling the center-right Free Democrats as "softies", Social Democratic voters as deranged, and renegade Federal Councillors Schmid and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf as "appendices" requiring excision.[8] Nonetheless, Maurer was able to keep his public persona separate from the way his colleagues in Parliament perceived him. In the National Council, his personal stature grew during his service and even political opponents credited his personal integrity, collegial demeanour and solid grasp of political issues.[9] His good professional relations with Social Democratic women representatives were particularly noted by puzzled political observers.[8]

Even as his and his party's star rose, however, relations between Maurer and his longtime mentor Blocher slowly cooled,[8] even though the two men remained strong allies in public. Blocher, used to exercising authoritarian leadership as the party's undisputed leading figure, did not approve of Maurer questioning some of his strategic approaches, and increasingly exercised power through a close-knit circle of followers instead of through Maurer and the party secretariat.[8] In October 2007, after the People's Party won its greatest electoral victory in history, Maurer resigned as party president[3] and was succeeded against his wishes[8] by Toni Brunner, one of Blocher's close confidants, on 1 March 2008.[12] After losing a run-off election for a Council of States seat against Verena Diener,[13] Maurer contented himself with the presidency of the Zürich section of the People's Party.[14]

Federal Council candidacy[edit]

On 27 November 2008, the party's parliamentary group unanimously nominated both Maurer and Blocher as candidates to succeed Schmid as Federal Councillor.[2] With Blocher – who was ousted from the Council in 2007 – considered unelectable by all other parties,[2] the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and other Swiss media called Maurer the clear frontrunner for the Council seat even before his nomination.[8] On 10 December 2008 Maurer was elected to the Federal Council in the third round of voting with 122 votes, a margin of a single vote.[15] Maurer was elected Vice President of the Confederation for 2012, alongside President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. On 5 December 2012 he was elected President of the Confederation for 2013.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Eidgenössische Bundeskanzlei: Der Bund kurz erklärt, Seite 63. Erschienen 2009
  2. ^ a b c "Maurer joins Blocher in race for cabinet seat". Swissinfo. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  3. ^ a b c "Main parties undergo shake-up after elections". Swissinfo. October 26, 2007. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Vonarburg, Verena (26 October 2007). "Vom Unterhund zum Wolf im Schafspelz" (in German). Tages-Anzeiger. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  5. ^ Biography of Ueli Maurer on the website of the Swiss Parliament.
  6. ^ "Major Maurers Marschbefehl" (in German). Tagblatt. 29 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
  7. ^ "Ueli Maurer - Unterwegs im Dienste der Partei" (in German). Berner Zeitung. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Benini, Francesco (23 November 2008). "Der Favorit: Ueli Maurer ist erster Anwärter für die Nachfolge Schmids im Bundesrat" (in German). Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  9. ^ a b c Cavelty, Gieri; Szöllösy, Gaby (25 November 2008). "Maurer: Der Scharfmacher kann durchaus angenehm sein" (in German). Berner Zeitung. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  10. ^ In the original German: «Solange ich Neger sage, bleibt die Kamera bei mir.»
  11. ^ Jordan, Frank (September 1, 2007). "Swiss Expulsion Proposal Draws Criticism". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  12. ^ "People's Party elects new leader". Swissinfo. March 1, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  13. ^ "Rightwing party unable to consolidate gains". Swissinfo. November 25, 2007. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  14. ^ nzz.ch: «Wir sind die einzige noch verbleibende bürgerliche Partei», vom 7. August 2008
  15. ^ Photo-finish vote puts Maurer in cabinet. swissinfo.ch, December 10, 2008. Accessed December 17, 2008.
Political offices
Preceded by
Samuel Schmid
Member of the Swiss Federal Council
2009–present
Incumbent
Head of the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports
2009–present
Preceded by
Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Vice President of Switzerland
2012
Succeeded by
Didier Burkhalter
President of Switzerland
2013