Swiss President Didier Burkhalter caught a train yesterday, maybe to work, maybe to do some shopping. Whichever it was, he wasn’t exactly incognito, being smartly suited and checking his smartphone.
A photo of the casual moment was taken by journalist Serge Jubin and posted on Facebook with the message:
“Switzerland: marvellous country where the president of the Confederation can cheerfully tap away on his smartphone on the platform at Neuchâtel station amongst other train users…”
Here it is after it was picked up by fellow journalists and tweeted out:
— Ralph Straumann (@rastrau) September 2, 2014
Is it a statement about Switzerland’s neutrality? The effectiveness of its government? The general maturity of its population?
Respondents still aren’t sure.
— Aniket Alam (@aniketalam) September 3, 2014
— Timothy Anderegg (@t_anderegg) September 3, 2014
— James Roman (@JamesNamor) September 2, 2014
Nicolas Bideau, Ambassador for Swiss promotional body House of Switzerland, told The Local the photo “illustrated the close relationship between the president and the people in Switzerland”.
“Our country is well-known as a direct democracy. The government is able to show that it is close to the people and the people respect that [by] not annoying a member of the government in the train.”
Of course, Australia’s own Prime Minister can waltz into the surf at Bondi wearing nothing but skimpy red undies, and as one Twitterer pointed out, there was a great moment when the Irish President Michael Higgins was caught lining up at an ATM:
— Feargus Niall (@FNiall) September 2, 2014
But most world leaders attract some kind of crowd, even when (or perhaps because) they’re surrounded by bodyguards and officials.
Check the photo again – in Switzerland, no one even looks at their President. It’s half weird, half wonderful.
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