Yesterday, Switzerland’s federal assembly elected Ignazio Cassis as the federal council replacement to Didier Burkhalter, who resigned in June this year. Cassis was chosen by a majority of the federal assembly over Pierre Maudet (Geneva) and Isabelle Moret (Vaud) in a tightly contested race, receiving 125 of 244 valid votes in the second round.
Cassis, a member of the Liberal Party (PLR/FDP), was born in Sessa, a town of 700 people in the canton of Ticino. Born an Italian citizen he became Swiss in 1976. After graduating in medicine from the University of Zurich in 1987, he received his masters in public health in 1996, and a doctorate in medicine from the University of Lausanne in 1998.
In the run up to the vote he renounced his Italian citizenship. Pierre Maudet, one of the other front runners, who is Swiss and French, promised to give up his French nationality if successful without actually doing so.
Cassis is married and lives in the town of Montagnola. He speaks Switzerland’s three official languages (German, French, Italian) fluently, one of the arguments in favour of his election. Another is his experience in healthcare at a time when people are struggling to pay ever higher health insurance premiums. At the same time some have questioned his performance on this matter given his closeness to the sector and the lack of progress that has been made containing costs.