Adresse aux jeunes candidats de Madaba, Jordanie – Mock election in Madaba, Jordan. Speech for the youth candidates.

Le 22 mai dernier j’ai été invité par l’Ambassade de France à Amman, Jordanie, à venir m’exprimer devant les jeunes candidats à une simulation d’élection locale à Madaba, une ville située au sud de la capitale. Ceci s’inscrit dans un contexte de préparation des premières élections locales libres : tout un enjeu pour des jeunes qui n’ont pas l’âge de se présenter (25 ans) et pour la Commission électorale qui y trouvait l’occasion d’une répétition grandeur nature.

Dans toute la ville, des panneaux incitaient les habitants à venir élire leurs jeunes « élus ». Plus de 2000 se sont présentés en quelques heures. Ce fut un succès éclatant.

Je tiens à saluer le remarquable travail réalisé par l’Ambassade sur place en partenariat avec la société civile.

Voici le texte de mon intervention devant les jeunes candidats (en anglais).

Invited by the French Embassy in Amman to speak to the youth candidates of a mock (youth) election in Madaba, Jordan, I had the opportunity to meet remarkable young people and to see an electoral process in the making. Jordan is holding its first free local elections in a few months. More than 2000 people showed up to vote in just a few hours’ time: priceless practice for the Electoral Commission. Here’s what I said to the 25 young candidates, out of whom 6 where women, onthe day before the mock election.

 

Madaba, May 22 17.

 ***

Dear all,

Dear young people of Madaba,

It is an honor for me to be here today. I know that soon you will be making history and I feel joyed to be able to witness such a moment. I hope you take it as such yourselves and that one day you may remember this time as an important one.

First, I would like to thank the French Embassy as well as Al Hayat NGO for this initiative, as well as the local, gubernatorial/regional and national authorities who allowed for this wonderful experiment. I could only honor such an invitation to come speak to young Jordanians about to witness their first local elections and to enact their own mock election. Many thanks to the OECD for the work they do here in support of local democracy.

I feel humble to be able to tell you about my own experience as a young local official.

I didn’t entirely expect to be elected the way it happened, but it did. I joined a political party in France when I was 17, and I remained active for many years before this happened.

Being active in your community enhances your awareness as a citizen. It’s a telescope that forces you to look at what’s happening around you, how society is changing and what needs to change, and where you stand. Far from being a brainwashing process, it actually serves as political caffeine.

Now let me tell you about being an elected official.

At first, you don’t see a difference between before and after you are elected. You are the same person. Only now you must find ways to apply your ideas and to live up to the mandate other citizens have given you. And this is quite challenging. You face your colleagues’, your administrations’, and sometimes even your fellow citizens’ conservatism. You must also deal with aspects of political life that you don’t appreciate, such as your colleagues’ personal ambition, tempering your own, or facing odd personal requests from people who should really be asking you to work well and focus on your mission.

Throughout the process you will grow and learn and become better until you are ready to step down and let someone else endure the same cycle in turn.

But as an active part of local life you don’t have to be in office.

For elections may be the key focal point of local life and they matter, but as young people you can find many ways to have an impact on your local community. It is worth it, because it is there that you will most easily and rewardingly find ways to bring about positive change, work with people on problems you know well and learn. Do not forget that in the age of the internet, local initiatives and solutions can quickly become global ones. When Paris introduced the bikesharing system, for instance, it was emulated all over the world. When a city, Grande Synthe, in Northern France set up new housing units for refugees, its initiative became a worldwide role model that you may read about through the press.

 

So remember that you have an influence, and that every single one of your actions matters and will have an effect. No ones knows how, or when, but it will.

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