The citizens of the Republic and Canton of Geneva have spoken. Having made some comments on the campaign, which had most interesting feedback, I will now venture some comments on the results:
The mood at Uni Mail on Sunday was festive in the sense of a large gathering of citizens celebrating the democratic process. The hall of the University was like a large town meeting - or in the classic American equivalent village green - with people of different parties mingling with journalists and concerned citizens. It was all extremely informal, face-to-face, with Pascal Decaillets and the team of Leman Bleu playing their role as public broadcasters. It appeared to be direct democracy at its best.
The pronouncements by the winners and losers were less than inspired. Once again, as with the campaign, emphasis was placed on the political parties, alliances, winners and losers. Very little was said about competence or accountability. If the majority of the executive of the City of Geneva is on the left, how should they be judged before the next election? They are in power, and thus responsible. Who will get what department? It is one thing to talk of campaign slogans, it is another to hold those elected to their words. American pragmatism says that Candidate Obama promised to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay; President Obama has not done that, and there are people who remember. Officials should be judged on bottom-line results, not slogans, ideological pronouncements or impressions. Having a majority, such as the left in Carouge, means that the electors expect performance. There are fewer excuses now. The Democratic Party in the United States was not able to pass a national budget when they controlled the Parliament and the Executive and they were punished by the Republicans in the new Congress. Victory has a price.
I attended a celebration of one of the parties Sunday evening. Lots of joy and congratulations. I was reminded of the famous line by Robert Redford at the end of the movie "The Candidate" just after he had won. He turns to an assistant and asks, "What do we do now?" Campaigning and governing are not the same thing. There are excellent campaigners who are poor administrators and vice-versa. Those concerned citizens who were at Uni Mail on Sunday would do well to be vigilant towards those in power. Direct democracy involves not just voting, but holding those in office accountable. I am surprised that the local papers do not analyze the votes of Geneva's representatives in Bern. Vigilance towards those in office is as important to a direct democracy as the voting procedure. Let the process of accountability begin.
April 18, 2011