Ueli Maurer

Ueli Maurer

Ueli Maurer
Head of the Department of Finance
Assumed office
1 January 2016
Preceded by Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
President of Switzerland
In office
1 January 2013 – 31 December 2013
Vice President Didier Burkhalter
Preceded by Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Succeeded by Didier Burkhalter
Vice President of Switzerland
Assumed office
1 January 2018
President Alain Berset
Preceded by Alain Berset
In office
1 January 2012 – 31 December 2012
President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Preceded by Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
Succeeded by Didier Burkhalter
Head of the Department of

Defence, Civil Protection and Sports

In office
1 January 2009 – 31 December 2015
Preceded by Samuel Schmid
Succeeded by Guy Parmelin
Member of the Swiss Federal Council
Assumed office
1 January 2009
Preceded by Samuel Schmid
Chairman of the Swiss People’s Party
In office
Preceded by Hans Uhlmann
Succeeded by Toni Brunner
Personal details
Born  1 December 1950
Wetzikon, Switzerland
Political party Swiss People’s Party
Children 6

Ulrich “Ueli” Maurer  is a member of the Swiss Federal Council. Formerly head of the Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (the Swiss defence minister), Maurer has been the head of the Federal Department of Finance (the Swiss finance minister) since 1 January 2016.

As a leading figure in the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party, Ueli Maurer was elected by the Swiss Federal Assembly to succeed Federal Councillor Samuel Schmid in the Swiss Federal Council election of 10 December 2008 and took office on 1 January 2009.

Maurer served as Vice-President of the Swiss Confederation in 2012 and 2018 and as President of the Swiss Confederation for the year 2013. He was also reelected Federal Councillor in the Swiss Federal Council election of 8 December 2015.

Personal background and professional career

Maurer grew up as the son of a poor farmer in the Zürcher Oberland. After a commercial apprenticeship, Maurer received a federal accountant’s diploma. He was director of the Zürich Farmers’ Association from 1994 to 2008, and was president of the Swiss Vegetable Farmers’ Association and the Farmers’ Machinery Association (Maschinenring) until his election to the Federal Council.

Currently resident in Hinwil in the canton of Zürich, Ueli Maurer is married and has six children. He has served in the Swiss Army with the rank of major, commanding a bicycle infantry battalion.

Political career of Ueli Maurer

Cantonal politics

From 1978 to 1986, Maurer was a member of the municipal government of Hinwil. He was elected to the cantonal parliament of Zürich in 1983, which he presided over in 1991. In that year, he lost an election to the cantonal government against Moritz Leuenberger, as his opponents derided Maurer’s campaign as inept and himself as a naïve devotee of party strongman Christoph Blocher. In the same year’s national election, though, Ueli Maurer was elected to the National Council.Ueli Maurer

National career and party presidency

In 1996, at Blocher’s behest, Maurer was elected president of the Swiss People’s Party. Not taken seriously at first and parodied by TV comedian Viktor Giacobbo as Blocher’s servile sycophant, so memorably that his taunted children regularly returned from school in tears, his presidency saw the party double its voter base, establish itself in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and become the country’s strongest political party. These successes have been largely credited to Ueli Maurer‘s leadership, who was able to make up a lack of charisma with astonishingly hard work, the imposition of strict party discipline, a keen sense for promising populist issues (such as opposition to European integration, foreigners and political correctness) as well as a penchant for headline-grabbing soundbites, as attested by an often-cited statement of his: “As long as I talk of negroes, the camera stays on me”.

As president of the People’s Party, Maurer was a leading force behind the party’s aggressive and successful populist campaigns – campaigns that drew the ire of the Swiss political mainstream and the concern of foreign observers – signing off on cartoonish posters attacking leftists, foreigners and other undesirables. In a breach with Swiss political etiquette, Ueli Maurer did not shy away from direct personal attacks on fellow politicians, labeling the center-right Free Democrats as “softies”, Social Democratic voters as deranged, and renegade Federal Councillors Schmid and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf as “appendices” requiring excision.

Bern, 20.9.2017 -- Die Eidgenoessische Bundesversammlung hat den Tessiner Ignazio Cassis zum 117. Bundesrat gewaehlt. Bild:Der Bundesrat empfaengt im Salon du President seinen neuen Kollegen. vlnr.: Bundespraesidentin Doris Leuthard, Alain Berset, Ueli Maurer, Simonetta Sommaruga, Johann Schneider-Ammann, Guy Parmelin, Ignazio Cassis und Bundeskanzler Walter Thurnherr. Foto: Karl-Heinz Hug
Doris Leuthard, Alain Berset, Ueli Maurer, Simonetta Sommaruga, Johann Schneider-Ammann, Guy Parmelin, Ignazio Cassis und Bundeskanzler Walter Thurnherr 2017

Nonetheless, Maurer was able to keep his public persona separate from the way his colleagues in Parliament perceived him. In the National Council, his personal stature grew during his service and even political opponents credited his personal integrity, collegial demeanour and solid grasp of political issues. His good professional relations with Social Democratic women representatives were particularly noted by puzzled political observers.Schülerinnen und Schüler die besonders erfolgreich SWISSAID-Abzeichen verkauft haben, werden zum Dank von Bundespräsident Ueli Maurer im Bundeshaus empfangen.

Even as his and his party’s star rose, however, relations between Maurer and his longtime mentor Blocher slowly cooled, even though the two men remained strong allies in public. Blocher, used to exercising authoritarian leadership as the party’s undisputed leading figure, did not approve of Maurer questioning some of his strategic approaches, and increasingly exercised power through a close-knit circle of followers instead of through Maurer and the party secretariat. In October 2007, after the People’s Party won its greatest electoral victory in history, Ueli Maurer resigned as party president and was succeeded against his wishes by Toni Brunner, one of Blocher’s close confidants, on 1 March 2008. After losing a run-off election for a Council of States seat against Verena Diener, Maurer contented himself with the presidency of the Zürich section of the People’s Party.

Swiss Federal Council

Official Swiss Federal Council photo for 2013, the year Maurer was President. Maurer is the fourth person from the right.
Official Swiss Federal Council p.hoto for 2013, the year Maurer was President. Maurer is the fourth person from the right.

On 27 November 2008, the party’s parliamentary group unanimously nominated both Maurer and Blocher as candidates to succeed Schmid as Federal Councillor. With Blocher – who was ousted from the Council in 2007 – considered unelectable by all other parties, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and other Swiss media called Ueli Maurer the clear frontrunner for the Council seat even before his nomination. On 10 December 2008 Maurer was elected to the Federal Council in the third round of voting with 122 votes, a margin of a single vote.

Maurer was elected Vice President of the Confederation for 2012, alongside President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. On 5 December 2012 he was elected President of the Confederation for 2013.

Maurer was reelected as Federal Councillor on 8 December 2015, and on 11 December 2015 Ueli Maurer was selected to become head of the Federal Department of Finance, with newly elected Guy Parmelin, a fellow member of the SVP, replacing his position as head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports.

As Finance Minister, Maurer attended the 2017 G20 Hamburg summit, becoming the first federal councillor to attend a G20 summit

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