Here is what that great defender of dualistic politics (Fausto Majistral, Balistically Electoral) had to say about my recent criticism of Minister Borg’s proposal to amend the constitution (Division for Labour (and PN)):
It may be news from last year but Jacques is still livid. Chill out, man. As I said then: when there are three players and the situation changes so that two are better off and the other is neither better nor worse off, the situation as a whole has improved. You do not need to be a classical utilitarian to realise that, just by knowing that “the interests of the Green Party” is not necessarily univocal with “the interests of Maltese democracy”.
Now it may be true that J’accuse’s agenda is bent on breaking the duopolistic politics of the nation might make us kick off with a biased approach. It is equally true that Fausto’s utilitarian approach to the issue is based on minimising the issue. Of course there is an improvement Fausto – for the MLPN that is. But that, strangely enough, is not what democracy is all about. Lino Spiteri writes in today’s Times and forgive me if I quote extensively (my bold) but he seems to say it better than I would:
The big parties have finally agreed that they should legislate to align votes and seats won. Thereby, the borders and size of the electoral districts will not matter. That move forward is not enough. The political scene is dominated by the two giant parties. But they are not the only parties around. Alternattiva Demokratika has contested elections over the past two decades. A fourth party has been formed which, obnoxious though its purpose may be, has its rights so long as it operates within our democratic parameters.
These two parties, and others which could be formed in future, will not benefit from the constitutional amendments to be passed in the coming weeks. They will remain proof that our improved electoral democracy remains imperfect. So imperfect that, if a third party gains parliamentary representation, it will be possible to have fresh perverse fits between votes won and seats gained. There is, therefore, a double weakness in the making. The amendments are unfair to third parties. And they leave alive the danger of a time bomb.
The two gaps are linked. In the absence of a national quota, calibrated by a sensible threshold to ensure governability, a small party has to gain nearly 17 per cent of the valid votes cast in a single district to win representation. That is unlikely to happen, and so the big partiers are loading the dice against the small parties of today and tomorrow. Nevertheless, though improbable, the possibility of a small political grouping gaining representation cannot be ruled out, particularly in Gozo.
Why, if they really respect democracy, cannot the two parties agree on amendments that will include a national quota and a threshold of 7.5 to 10 per cent of the national, which would be high enough to balance governability with the right to representation? Why do the big parties shy of a simple solution?
The answer is also simple: Whatever their pronouncements, the big parties do not want a full democratic electoral system.
They would be shier still if the pressure was for Malta to be considered as a single constituency in general election, as it already is in elections for MEPs. That system could allow in individuals standing independently, as well as small political groupings. Now, that would be real and bold democracy.
It will never happen. But introducing proportionality along with a national quota and a sensible threshold should happen. The longer it does not, the heavier the burden on the conscience of the two big parties.