My first time: general meeting of the Vienna party branch 

That was exhausting! Today I participated in the 55. general meeting of the Vienna branch of the Austrian Green party. For seven hours we voted the list of candidates for the next nationwide election in autumn 2006, position after position, with five minute presentation slots plus five minutes for questions for each candidate. The first two places were uncontested, the incumbents got 84% (Glawischnig-Piescek) and 96% (Öllinger) respectively. Then it got tight for the remaining two to three realistic seats. The runoff for fourth place was decided by a result of 171:169 votes - for the winning side, every single vote mattered! Had one of the delegates voted differently, we might have another candidate in the next parliament. This proves what I believed when I decided to join the party in spring, namely that voting within an internally democratic party is much more effective for the individual than participating in general elections, where the chances of changing the result with one's single vote are almost null.

This is not to say the whole experience was all satisfying. It is no fun to find out that your own political position is pretty far from being in the majority among the delegates. It seems that also these politically savvy voters often vote for candidates that are like them, not least on a biographical level. Whether somebody's analyses and proposals are right or not, or whether somebody is competent in what he or she does, does not matter as much as it should. As the Vienna Greens have always been in opposition, there is also some degree of celebrating contrarians at the expense of candidates who can develop workable solutions for real problems.

Lesson: If one wants to move something in politics, being right (even if we assume you are) means nothing. In a radically democratic setting [Basisdemokratie] such as the Green party, one also has to develop and implement a step-by-step plan for how to convince hard-to-impress peers, delegates, the party, before--many years later--one might eventually get a real chance to talk to the public. A long road. Is it worth trying?

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