Final Thoughts

Guest blogger Justin BB shares his final thoughts with J’accuse readers. From Scotland with ice this article was dispatched shortly before JBB began his long trek to Malta (ah the sacrifices that disinterested navel gazers make for a quick vote on the island).

Final Thoughts (JBB)

The following are a few random thoughts that I typed up in a hurry before getting the bus from Aberdeen to Glasgow. Apologies for the haphazard style, but the bus will not wait:

Time for Change

One thing is certain. This electoral campaign has made it amply clear that politics in Malta must change. Malta is similar to pre-Thatcherite Britain – a centre left consensus among a comfortable electorate leaves no room for politicians to truly tell us what they believe, to respect our intelligence and give us a choice of real policies. The electoral campaign has been low on substance and high on mud-slinging, because mud is all that is left when substance is gone.

So how do we go about making the change happen? And what price, if any, are we ready to pay to do so?

Some will prioritise voting a corrupt and arrogant government out. Others will keep an incompetent, amoral opposition from becoming a bumbling government for a second time. Still others will vote to change the entire system of governance. They will vote not to kick or keep someone out but to knock the demagogues off their pedestals and onto the chairs at the discussion table.

Which approach is best depends on what a voter really thinks is attainable. Will Labour finally get their act together and make good use of five more years in the wilderness? Will PN sort itself out or will it become more rabid if voted out? If AD or AN do win seats, will they really change the way politics is done?

Of course most will vote as they always have, whether they bother to think it through or not.

More Dirt

This electoral campaign was characterised by dirt.

I imagine MLP strategists coming across some flimsy evidence and asking how they can make it stick. Does anyone honestly think that MLP asked if the healthcare charges story was true? Clearly they did not. They’re adverts illustrate their intent quite clearly when they say that a decision has been taken, when the document they quote in that same advert says otherwise.

Did they explore whether JPO really knew about the Mistra application all along? I have no doubt that they did not. They simply found some facts, spun them into the dirtiest narrative they could, and let the media know when JPO was stuck on a boat (the most hilariously childish episode in Maltese politics that I can remember, closely followed by JPO and AS’ antics at MLP’s BA press conference)

Did PN ever deign to apologise for one of their supporters chucking a rock through Harry’s windows into his house? (where as far as the supporters knew, his young children could have been. Raymond Caruana anyone?) No they did not. They said that it isn’t certain that a PN activist chucked the rock.

Did PN ever deign to apologise for illegally arresting Super One journalists?

And then there is the obscene Harry arrest warrant. It has the feel of something from the 80s.

Did AD take a firm stand on this or did they just hope to benefit from MLP and PN’s mudslinging? To my mind, a bit of both is true.

So where’s the beef?

Quite surprisingly, AN was the one party to truly articulate a platform. They’re something like a Catholic version of the more whacky US Republicans: small government, anti-immigration, and pro-family. Unfortunately I cannot find myself commending the substance of most of AN’s proposals, particularly when they have come close to being a force to be reckoned with because of racist sentiments.

PN and its media cohorts focused on demonising its opposition; MLP focused on using flimsy evidence to tarnish PN; AD focused on ‘coalition’, which isn’t quite substance in terms of bread and butter policy. There is a counter-arguments to all of this, namely that campaigns are always about the other as much as about oneself, but wouldn’t it have been healthier had AD articulated a green and socially progressive agenda more forcefully? Would it not have been healthier had PN and MLP actually discussed their own proposals rather than focusing on personalities?

There was some substance surely, but was there as sustained engagement with ideas?

Where are the women?

This electoral campaign looks like it could be something from the 1950s, except in the 50s Mabel Strickland was a major political figure. If my quick mental calculations are right, less than 10% of the candidates are women. Despite Gonzi’s reasonable efforts, Malta is still stuck in a frame of mind that is several decades behind the sorry state of several other democracies.

Part of the solution is to change our outdated schooling system and to integrate boys’ and girls’ schools. How can we sustain an educational system that raises children to believe that they cannot work with the other gender? And how can we hope to have a truly egalitarian society if boys and girls grow up thinking that they are fundamentally worlds apart?

The rise of the blogs

This election was the first to see blogs playing a role in forming public opinion. Of course we have to take the good with the bad. It is too easy to click ‘submit comment’ and deride a faceless opponent, when few would have the guts or the utter lack of respect to do so face to face. That being said, blogs have changed the dynamics of electoral debate. Ideas are engaged with instantly and intelligent discussion is finally a reality in a way that the print media could never hope for. The big parties can no longer hope to bog debate down and crush freedom of speech. I look forward to 2013.

Youtube also played its part, mostly in furthering and fuelling the negative campaigning. Still, this is a positive development in that people talk to each other in real time, rather than Net News and Super One talking over each other.

What next?

On Monday GonziPN might feel that their dirty electioneering was successful. If not, let’s hope that they have a good long look at themselves rather than blaming anything else under the sun as they have persisted in doing since the EP elections.

Alfred Sant might feel vindicated for running a dirty campaign too. He might feel that he does not need to do much to be elected because he might be PM, notwithstanding misprints, computer malfunctions and impossible/incomplete policies. If not, let’s hope that Labour will put its best minds to work on becoming a credible alternative to PN’s hegemony.

AD might actually win a seat in Parliament. If they do, will they live up to the promise of forging a new way of doing politics, a green way of doing politics? If not, let’s hope that they work towards being a more professional campaigning unit.

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10 responses to “Final Thoughts

  1. David Friggieri

    “Dirt”

    They’ve scraped the barrel. But don’t just blame the politicians for this Justin. Notice how people lap it up and enjoy it when it’s their party doing the mud-slinging and engaging in shifty behaviour. I was appalled by the partisan comments beneath the Harry Vassallo arrest warrant story on The Times on-line version. Thousands out there love being blinded by prejudice. It gives them comfort.

    “Where are the women?”

    Some women are arguing forcefully that a political leader needs a wife to be a serious candidate. Single men are weirdos in tolerant Smart Malta. The Coen brothers should shoot a sequel on the island called “No Country For Single Men.” Slit your wrists you weirdos. Get yerselves a wife, will ya not?

    “What next?”

    MLP gets in – Sant’s long and winding voyage to Castille is vindicated. If you slog it out long enough, it pays. The Marathon man of European Opposition politics gets his gold medal after all. Reform in MLP put off for 10 even longer years. PN shrugs and puts blame squarely on a) inevitable desire for change ‘no-matter-what’ and b) traitors who abandoned their noble cause. No major shifts occur within PN apart from some ‘fresh faces’ taking their chance.

    PN gets in – A euphoric feeling that This is the Chosen Party leading God’s Chosen People into the promised land takes over. Sant bows out and goes on to write a long novel which chronicles the adventures of an absurd little country obsessed by politics. MLP top brass in a quandry: apparently we need a clean sweep but that means the end of our political career. Nini nini.

    AD? You mean that bunch of traitors, Savonarolas, tax evaders, ditherers, fence-sitting abortionist opportunists?

  2. I had a driving lesson today and the student before me was given some words of advice by the instructor; “jekk se tivvota ghal wiehed mil-partiti iz-zghar ivvota ghal AN forsi jehilsuna min das-suwed li hawn”.

    I disagree with you on AD though. I think this was the first time when the prospect of a coalition was properly discussed and where the proposal was put forward as part of the manifesto. Regarding coalition, I think AD where far more realistic than AN – and I think their green agenda and social agenda came across quite well.

    And the woman is busy sitting by her husband, looking lovingly into his eyes being used merely as a prop.

  3. Andre, now for god’s sake, don’t copy david’s bit about AD and post it on your blog as if he was in fact meaning it.

  4. I’ve really had enough of this

  5. David Friggieri

    Just to set record straight for fairness’ and Andre’s sake. After the unfortunate incident vis Andre’s selective quoting of my article, Andre has proved to be a gentleman when it came to rectifying the problem and misunderstanding.

    Absolutely no hard feelings vis Andre.

    But, yes SE, I guess I should put [said in sarcastic tone] in future to avoid problems.

  6. AD – a new way of doing politics?

    I have my doubts after the Police’s statement. Rotten watermelon I would say.

  7. THE GENEROUS MALTESE PEOPLE!

    Justin,

    Once again your ideas are interesting and stimulating. Like you, I have been following the political debate through the internet since I live in London.

    JBB, I could not agree more that politics in Malta is in dire need of change. With difficulty I attempted to follow the proposals being put forward by the different parties. I hoped to listen to an intelligent discussion on real policies. Instead I listened to (or read about) dirt (to use your word) or childlike bickering. JPO’s version of ‘Wedding Crashers’ was probably the biggest anti-climax of the past seven days – where he was almost in tears to go on a date (in public) with AS, but of course (for the melodramatic ones…) he did weep on another occasion.

    As a voter (contemplating who I should vote for), my greatest dilemma is the choice between bad and worse. A government tinted with corruption, dirt, allegations etc or an Opposition with little ideas. JBB, as you rightfully say, these elections were based on personalities (GonziPN vs AS) rather than on policies (education, alternative energy, health, environment etc). It reminds me of the fights we used to have at Uni – when you chaired KPS (Kummissjoni Politika Socjali) – between SDM (Studenti Demokristajani Maltin) and Pulse – which seemed like a failed attempt to play a game called ‘Adult Politics’ when they probably looked more like children fighting for the spotlight. Maybe I was wrong at the time, or maybe politics simply regressed exponentially in the recent years.

    Like many others I am appalled by the Harry Vassallo arrest warrant. I am surprised at the timing – which at best is a coincidence and at worse a political crime! I m curious to hear GonziPN’s thoughts on the matter. Querioz and Zeppi l-hafi deserve a Pres. Pardon but the cruel, criminal and deviant Harry Vassallo does not! The issue of fines (for not sending a form) needs to be discussed on a national level as it presents itself as a big problem (Ask Harry!).

    The AN (and that guy Lowell) have a racist agenda and therefore choose to opt themselves out of an intelligent conversation. Somewhere I read ‘Ignore ignorance’ – which probably is a good quote in this case.

    The moral of the story is that to bring about the change we want, we need to move away from partisan politics and shift to a more intelligent discourse where people agree or disagree with policies (or even personalities) based on their content and not based on colour. I aspire to a Malta where political ideology is based on thoughts, experience and belief and not simply family indoctrination!

    Everybody seems to agree that fighting corruption is a good thing… I suggest we impose a maximum of two consecutive terms for any politician to serve in government (as a PM, minister, or parliamentary secretary). This so-called idea reminds me of the joke made by Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) in the movie ‘Philadelphia’ about 1000 lawyers (politicians?) chained together at the bottom of the ocean… being ‘a good start’. For adding such a directive would be a mere start to fighting corruption… But we all know that such a thing would never happen in Malta… not because people are addicted to power (!) but because we are such ‘a generous people’ that we love to serve … in power!!!

  8. Comparing Harry Vassallo to Raymond Caruana? Come on, get real man. Can’t you tell the difference between firing a machine gun and throwing a stone? Or losing a window pane and losing your life?

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