The Moral of the Election Story

Not much can be learned from the municipal elections, but even a little is something.

The main lesson concerns the public's indifference. Only some 40 percent of voters bothered to make their way to polling stations yesterday. The vast majority stayed home. The "average voter" (if there is such a creature) doesn't really believe he has any influence, that his one vote can actually make a difference. He is also not entirely clear about the differences between the candidates. They're all the same, he says to himself, giving up. Thus a low voter turnout is expected in three months, when the Knesset elections are held. Indifference is a plague - one step before despair.

Another moral of the election story is that people are tired of parties, especially big ones. There is no demand for the damaged goods, people and plans they offer. In a take on the old Talmudic phrase, the cow in the national meadow still wants to give milk, but the calf is no longer interested.

Men and women who want to make it in the local elections are keeping away from political parties, afraid of the taint of association. Kadima, Labor and the Likud may boast about their achievements, but most of them are false. It is also possible that some candidate who is affiliated with some party did win somewhere, but he did it in his own right, despite - not because - of his political connection. New lists headed by reliable people with good reputations have a good chance of doing well in the upcoming elections, despite the traumatic memory of those who made fools of themselves by voting for the Pensioners party last time around.

The elections have shown that dedicated citizens groups can field candidates, and that these candidates can go far even without a lot of money and a well-oiled apparatus. Those who set out with clean sails filled with the volunteer spirit may sail against all odds and dock in the Knesset come February. It worked in Tel Aviv (almost), it worked in Be'er Sheva and it will work everywhere, for those who turn their backs on bad old politics and wean themselves of tycoons' treats.

Another moral is that veteran officials should know when to retire before they are rolled out on a stretcher or kicked down the stairs. They must not disgrace themselves by holding on to their jobs for dear life. With all due respect to age and experience, they must make way for a new, younger generation. Indeed, we have an 85-year-old president and that's commendable. Still, President Shimon Peres may not be the best role model for every matter and at all times.

One can also learn that Arcadi Gaydamak will probably never be Israel's prime minister, or even the minister for Jerusalem affairs. Just as well. So you see, many good encouraging things happen on the way to the ballot box and back. I only wonder whether both voters and those they elect ever really learn any lessons.