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Petra Gössi

16.09.2020 – Theodora Peter

Is she up to the job? When Petra Gössi was elected leader of the Liberals (FDP) in 2016, few people knew the then 40-year-old lawyer from the canton of Schwyz. Although she had been a member of the National Council for five years, Gössi had never marked herself out as a political heavyweight. This soon changed. In 2017, Gössi skilfully saw to it that the FDP faction leader and man sitting next to her in parliament, Ignazio Cassis, was elected to the Federal Council. Climate change then became an issue, driving tens of thousands of mainly young dissatisfied people on to Switzerland’s streets. Their ire was partly directed at the FDP, which, together with the SVP, had watered down the proposed revision of the CO2 Act in 2018. By the time election year came around, Switzerland’s “business party” had run into a headwind. There was disgruntlement among an element of grassroots voters too. The party leader responded by pulling off a spectacular ideological volte-face. Suddenly, incentives such as a CO2 tax on airline tickets were no longer taboo. The rank and file voiced support for their leader’s U-turn, a survey of party members allowing Gössi to silence critics within the party who had accused her of opportunism in the wake of this policy reversal. The FDP consequently emerged relatively unscathed from last autumn’s federal elections, despite the green landslide. Although the party lost more than one per cent, pre-election forecasts had suggested worse. Gössi is now firmly in charge, with party members having recently voted her in for another two years as FDP leader. She is one of Switzerland’s longest-serving party leaders currently in office. The sceptics fell silent quite some time ago. Gössi is indeed up to the job.