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.
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.
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.