GENEVA (AP) — The Swiss parliament has elected a doctor to the country's seven-member executive branch, the first member from the Italian-speaking south in 18 years.
Ignazio Cassis of the free-market Radical Liberal party overtook two rivals from French-speaking regions to win the Federal Council seat.
Cassis, 56, will replace party comrade Didier Burkhalter, the foreign minister who is resigning for personal reasons. Cassis takes the seat on the council, which rules by consensus, on Nov. 1.
Cassis has caused a stir by supporting the controlled distribution of cocaine in some cases. Critics allege he has tilted to the right to appeal to the populist Swiss People's Party, which has the most seats in parliament.
Swiss parliaments have a tradition of maintaining relatively balanced representation in the Federal Council.
In Switzerland's form of democracy, members of the Federal Council head government departments. The Swiss presidency rotates every year among its members.
Some expect that Cassis will be chosen to take the foreign affairs dossier now held by Burkhalter.