In Switzerland, the position of president is ceremonial. Switzerland’s executive is led jointly by all seven members of the Federal Council, also known as les sept sages (the seven wise ones) by French speakers.
The ceremonial role of the president rotates annually among Federal Council members. In addition to the diplomatic duties of the president, he or she chairs Federal Council meetings and has the tie-breaker vote on contentious decisions.
This year the role passes to Ueli Maurer, Switzerland’s minister of finance, a role he’s held since 2016.
The 68-year-old accountant, who is married with six children, entered politics 40 years ago when he became the mayor of Hinwil in the canton of Zurich.
Maurer is a member of the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) and rose to political prominence as president of the party from 1996 to 2008. During this time the high-profile businessman and politician Christoph Blocher helped the party gain much political ground and many viewed Maurer more as Blocher’s assistant than true party leader.
Maurer gave up leadership of the party in 2009 when he was elected to the Federal Council. His first portfolio was minister of defense. His time in this role was marked by voters rejecting his decision to buy a fleet of new fighter jets in 2014.
Every year, the government issues a photo of the Federal Council. This year the president requested the photo (below) be taken with a smart phone.
From left to right: Walter Thurnherr (Federal Chancellor), Viola Amherd (defense minister), Simonetta Sommaruga (transport, energy and environment minister), Guy Parmelin (economics and education minister), Ueli Maurer (finance minister and 2019 Swiss President), Ignazio Cassis (foreign minister), Alain Berset (interior minister) and Karin Keller-Sutter (justice and police minister).