For the first time ever, the Federal Assembly has elected two women to the Federal Council at the same time. What is more, Christian Democrat Viola Amherd (National Council, VS) and Liberal Karin Keller-Sutter (Council of States, SG) were both elected in the first round of voting. The head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, Simonetta Sommaruga, also received a resounding number of votes for the vice presidency of the Federal Council.
With 119 votes required to obtain an absolute majority, Karin Keller-Sutter received 154 votes and her FDP opponent Hans Wicky (NW) 56. Viola Amherd received 148 votes while fellow official CVP candidate Heidi Z’graggen (UR) obtained 60.
As the first FDP female member to sit in government since Elisabeth Kopp, Karin Keller-Sutter says she is slightly awed by the position. Viola Amherd, meanwhile, has stressed that she will exercise her mandate with "humility and sincerity". Both women have called on the members of the government and parliament to set aside their partisan interests and work together to meet the challenges that Switzerland faces. Both believe that the election of two women to the Federal Council is a step towards "a normal state of affairs".
Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard was also elected in the first round, in 2006, but was the only candidate for her party. When the time came for her to leave the Federal Council, she spoke of the importance of consensus government and of compromise, which both involve respectfully considering the point of view of others.
Women obtained the right to vote and stand for election in 1971, yet had to wait a further thirteen years before their first female representative, Elisabeth Kopp, was elected to the Federal Council on 2 October 1984. In 2010, as many as four women sat on the Federal Council: Doris Leuthard, then President of the Confederation; Micheline Calmy-Rey (2003–2011), Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (2007–2015) and Simonetta Sommaruga, who had just been elected. But when Micheline Calmy-Rey and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf stood down, two male candidates were chosen to replace them. Two further women have sat in federal government, Ruth Dreifuss (1993–2002) and Ruth Metzler-Arnold (1999–2003), bringing the total number to nine.