BERN, Switzerland - The Swiss parliament on Wednesday elected justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga, a former concert pianist, to the largely symbolic position of president of Switzerland.

The choice of the 54-year-old was all but certain as it was her turn among the seven-member Federal Council, or government, to take the rotating one-year presidency.

But she won a relatively high number of votes, 181 out of 236 ballots cast, underlining strong support across the country’s political divides.

Sommaruga joined the government in 2010 as part of the first majority female cabinet in Switzerland, one of Europe’s most conservative countries. She is a Social Democrat who favours caps on immigration and reforms of public services. She is also a strong advocate of equal pay between men and women.

After her election in the lower house of parliament, Sommaruga made her acceptance speech in Switzerland’s four languages - German, French, Italian and Romansh.

She praised the country’s system of direct democracy, where referenda are held regularly.

A system that valued compromise and respect was “a strength and not a weakness,” she said. “I will do everything to ensure that this political culture continues.”

Sommaruga’s position as head of the police and justice department put her on the front line of a row with Brussels after voters backed the imposition of quotas for EU migrants during a February referendum.

In another referendum on Sunday, however, voters rejected a call for dramatic cuts to immigration in the name of protecting the environment.

Sommaruga will take over on January 1 from Didier Burkhalter, who is also foreign minister, becoming Switzerland’s fifth female president.

She trained and worked as a concert pianist before joining the Swiss Consumer Protection Foundation lobby group in 1993, later becoming its president.

She first entered parliament in 1999, taking a seat in the lower National Council of Switzerland and then the upper Council of States. Sommaruga is married to a writer, Lukas Hartmann.