Switzerland: Ladies Last

Breaking the magic spell

For a quarter-century Switzerland has led a charmed political life, thanks largely to a "magic formula" that left little room for opposition to government policy. The scheme's principal feature was the inclusion of representatives of all four major political parties on the seven-man Federal Council that serves as the quadrilingual nation's governing body.

But last week a singularly discordant note was struck in the finely tuned harmonies of Swiss political life. Forgoing customary politesse, the leaders of the Social Democratic Party, the country's second largest, accused their conservative coalition partners of "arrogance" and voted to walk out...

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