François Couchepin

François Couchepin
13th Chancellor of Switzerland
In office
Preceded by Walter Buser
Succeeded by Annemarie Huber-Hotz
Personal details
Born 19 January 1935
Martigny, Switzerland
Political party Free Democratic Party of Switzerland (FDP)
Alma mater University of Lausanne

François Couchepin (born 19 January 1935 in Martigny, Switzerland) is a Swiss lawyer and former politician from the Free Democratic Party of Switzerland (FDP).

The son of federal judge Louis Couchepin and cousin of Federal Councillor Pascal Couchepin, he studied law at the University of Lausanne. In 1957 he graduated with a licentiate and received patents as a lawyer and notary two years later from the canton of Valais. From 1964 to 1980 he led his own law practice in Martigny. He served in the Grand Council in the canton of Valais (1965-1980) as president of the liberal faction. In 1975 he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate. He was also the deputy secretary of the Swiss Association for the Council of European Municipalities and Regions.

In 1980 Couchepin entered the Federal Chancellery as head of the French department of linguistic services. He was named Vice-Chancellor the following year, ensuring the preparation of government sessions and taking minutes. In 1990, he was interim processing clerk documents prepared to ensure state security. He was the radical candidate in the race to succeed Walter Buser, facing competition from four opponents. In the sixth ballot, he was finally elected Chancellor on June 12, 1991 against surprise candidate Fritz Mühlemann (UDC) who was presented at the last minute by the mayor of Zurich, Sigmund Widmer.

As chancellor, he prepared two revisions of the Federal Law on Political Rights in 1994 and 1996 that reformed the law governing the election of the National Council, namely on the right of initiative and the right to vote. Popular initiatives were now to be submitted to popular vote within ten months after the end of parliamentary debates so that no deadline was planned earlier, which sometimes led to abuse. After the failure of the first draft revision included the appointment of more state secretaries (June 9, 1996) he succeeded a year later to pass a more modest reform to the law.

Several organizational changes took place under Couchepin's mandate. The Federal Data Protection Commissioner was assigned to the Federal Chancellery, while the Federal Central Office for Printing and Materials was transferred to the Finance Department from the Federal Chancellery to be fused with the present Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics.

Couchepin oversaw the extensive computerization of the federal administration, including the creation of databases and websites. As part of the commitment of Switzerland for the pacificatin of the Balkans, the Federal Chancellery organizes the 1996 elections in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo among asylum seekers in Switzerland.

After retirement in 1999, he wrote a petition to Parliament in relation to new laws on asylum and foreigners that collected a significant amount of signatures.


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