Yesterday, Toni Brunner, president of the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP), announced he would quit as the party’s president on 23 April 2016.
Then today the Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick, reported that Christoph Blocher also plans to resign from his post as one of the party’s several vice presidents at the same time as its president. Brunner, who described Blocher as irreplaceable, says he will try to talk him out of his decision.
75-year-old Christoph Blocher has been one of the driving forces behind the party in recent years and was on the Federal council, Switzerland’s cabinet, from 2003 until 2007. The son of a protestant pastor, and the seventh of twelve children, he became wealthy after buying a mid-sized chemicals company called EMS Chemie in 1983 and turning it into a large global business. In 2014, EMS Chemie employed 2,865 staff in 16 countries and generated close to CHF 2 billion revenue. His great-great grandfather Johann Georg Blocher (1811-1899) immigrated from the Kingdom of Württemberg, now part of modern Germany, and was naturalised Swiss in 1861. Over the years Christoph Blocher has generated controversy. For example, according to the newspaper 20 Minutes, he supported the apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1980s.
According to Toni Brunner, no one has had such a marked impact on Swiss politics as Blocher. Whatever he decides to do he will continue to influence the party and will retain presidency of the committee called “No to creeping European Union accession” he added.
Born in St. Gallen, 41-year-old Toni Brunner was first elected to the Swiss federal parliament in 1995 at the age of 21 and was its youngest member ever. He is a farmer and chairs the St. Gallen section of his party. He succeeded Ueli Maurer as national president of the party in March 2008. Brunner is said to be close to party figurehead, Christoph Blocher.
On 23 April 2016, the UDC will need to elect quite a few new leaders. The party’s leadership is proposing that Bern-based national counsellor Albert Rösti replace Toni Brunner as party president.