28/10/2013

Thoughts on the Upcoming Geneva Election and Democratic Deficits

Geneva citizens will soon be electing the seven members of the executive branch of the Cantonal government. The second round of voting, established by the new Constitution, will take place on November 10. Although it is reasonably simple to explain the system of voting and the election procedure, there are two particularities that remain puzzling.

There are seven members of the Geneva executive because there are seven departments. However, when voting in the election, citizens are only asked to select the candidates without any reference to which department the person will head if elected. In other words, we will be voting for individuals as members of political parties with no knowledge about which part of the government the elected will head. When voting, how many citizens will vote for a candidate thinking that that person is eminently qualified for a specific job which the person may not wind up getting?


Based on seniority, the elected executives will choose among themselves the different department assignments. (The same is true at the Federal level.) So, someone who has a background as an accountant and would be obvious to head finances could wind up in charge of security or health simply because of seniority and personal preferences. In Geneva, the voters have confidence in the executive’s choices for departments wherein in the United States the legislative branch must confirm the President’s choices for ministers.

The assumption behind this system, I suppose, is that within each department there are civil service specialists who know the ins and outs of the particularities of the department. The political figure in charge is supposed to be a good manager, not a real specialist. Nonetheless, it is disconcerting to imagine someone who has a background in agriculture, for example, to be in charge of the canton’s school system, all the way up to and including the university, as it would be for a lawyer to head finances. There are limits to being a good generalist and manager.

The second puzzling element of the election is the denomination of the departments themselves. Once the seven Conseillers d’Etat have been elected, they choose among themselves the departments they are to lead as well as the various functions each department is to have. For example, there is now the Département des affaires régionales, de l’économie et de la santé.  This was not so in the previous government; there was no combination of health and economics, and this title may not be so in the next government. So, the seven elected officials will not only decide among themselves without checks and balances which departments they want to lead, they will also decide the titles of and activities within each department. Not only is this denomination undemocratic since there is no consultation among those who elected them or eventually the legislature, it is also expensive in terms of changing offices and letterheads.

Switzerland prides itself as an example of best democratic practices. However, the above two elements in the electoral process appear to be fundamentally undemocratic with absolutely no checks and balances by citizens or other elected officials. The assumption is that those elected should have the freedom to make certain choices. Those responsibilities should be taken into account by voters in the upcoming election.

 

 

           

Commentaires

Vos remarques me semblent pertinentes et on pourrait assurément mieux faire.
Encore faudrait-il trouver les perles rares qui se profileraient en fonction des postes disponibles. Or, nous observons que les élus proviennent d'abord du sérail politique. L'accession à un exécutif est la finalité d'un plan de carrière. Il est très rare qu'un indépendant soit élu.

Parmi ces rares papables, il serait miraculeux de trouver des professionnels pour chaque dicastère. C'est une des raisons pour lesquelles il est important d'élire des managers dont les aptitudes permettent de diriger n'importe quel département en s'appuyant évidemment sur les hauts fonctionnaires qui ont vu défiler les présidents. J'effleure le sujet sur mon site : www.pierrejenni.ch/blog/29-serviteur-supreme

Si certaines qualités font défaut chez des élus, les conséquences se font vite sentir dans les services. L'exemple de Mme Künzler est parlant. Il n'y a pas de pilote dans l'avion et chacun fait ce qui lui plait.

La tâche n'est pas simple. Le conseiller d'Etat peut certes tenir compte de l'expérience de ses chefs de service, mais il a été élu sur des attentes et des promesses, mêmes si elles sont plutôt vagues.
Malheureusement, les changements ne se font pas en un claquement de doigts. Il sera par exemple difficile d'inverser la tendance ancrée depuis une dizaine d'années de vouloir dissuader les transports individuels au profit des transports publics collectifs par des brimades et obstacles physiques sur la voirie. Il faudrait dépenser des millions juste pour défaire ce qui a été fait par les écologistes intégristes en charge de la mobilité depuis deux législatures.

Le remaniement permanent des départements est aussi une aberration qui coûte cher. Il serait sage de s'inspirer du modèle fédéral et s'y tenir.

Écrit par : Pierre Jenni | 28/10/2013

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