And then there was Alternattiva Demokratika. The party, as many have not hesitated to remind us, that was born out of an uncomfortable rib of the Labour party. They do not remind us that the party has undergone change over the last 15 years and the vestiges of Wenzu Mintoff and Toni Abela are close to non-existent. Gone too are Saviour Balzan and Peppi Azzopardi, both having chosen journalism over direct involvement in politics. That they are gone is not a judgement on their decision, just a statement of fact.
So AD. The party other parties would rather have as a pressure group. As another grouping of common citizens who can yell all they like that some things are not being run the way they think they are supposed to and wait for their Masters Voice to decide. They tell them that they have no right to represent a different voice. Not in Parliament. Go back to your squealing they say. Respect? Not really.
AD may have been set up for 15 years but its resources remain what they are and it continues to play the game in a set-up of rules that were not made to consider its existence. From rules on broadcasting to media presence to the rules of the electoral game – we now have an admission: the odds are strongly stacked against them. Yet AD insists on representing whoever feels that they should have an alternative voice and as far as that goes they have fully lived up to their name: a democratic alternative.
AD’s weakness lies mainly in its constant inability to market its ideas strongly. For many years it strove to shed the idea of being a pressure group and built the idea of being a party. It broke ground slowly, very slowly and notwithstanding the miserable results in national election it persevered. I did manage to obtain a presence in Local Councils and had its defining moment in the European Parliament elections when 23,000 voters had the courage to shout out loud “Yes I can and want to vote different”. AD can proudly carry the badge of being the only political formation that suddenly began the gentle tide of change. It had the opportunity to become the focus point for this momentum.
Has it taken it? If I were to focus on this campaign I would find a number of areas in which constructive criticism is needed. AD missed out on really gathering the momentum on pointing out two essential points that have been asking for someone to carry the banner. The first is the unfairness of the system and the second is the right of the citizen to choose his side freely.
Why do I say that they missed out? AD chose to play by the rules of the game. Instead of concentrating on the main issue and focusing on a campaign that exposes the system to its worst extreme, they chose the Coalition Gambit. They knew the odds were stacked against it (I concede that there is the remote chance of one seat) but still chose to invest precious time and energy on just that. This choice may yet prove to be costly. They have had to justify a highly optimist prediction and they have had to sell that to a voter who has proven time and again not to be confident in letting go of old habits. Even before you begin to analyse the Sant effect on the whole issue I am sure you can appreciate the uphill battle in which AD chose to invest their electoral points.
How has that been perceived? The 6 points, the positives that AD has to offer, the strong points on which it had built a strong arsenal in its constant constructive criticism of a PN government were lost on the wayside in the general argument of ridicule of this quixotic attempt to overturn the system. This was compounded with the fact that they fell bang into the den of the wolves. Their position regarding the coalition meant that the PN could morph AD into a threat to stability by equating their current campaign aim with an implied leg-up to their supposed conniving partners at Dar it-Trasparenza. PN would avoid confrontation on issues and concentrate on slowly morphing AD into Daphne’s MLPAD. An underhand tactic indeed – but one that was to be expected from an electoral machine that has taught us that in this current game no holds will be barred.
PN’s complaint that AD has spent the years in opposition criticising government can only be taken seriously by the nationalist diehards. The more complicated barrier to fight was that of the justification of the Coalition Grand Plan. Gonzi played the diehard – all or nothing card. There would be no coalition with AD – and PN would forget all the threats and dangers of Sant so long as it holds strong to this position. The position would soften later as polls probably indicated it was not so convincing but that is only a guess. A hypocritical statement that was bound to tie the hands of the floater even further
In essence AD’s Coalition Campaign built a minefield around the very party that proposed it. When I first heard of it I went one step further. Imagine it worked. Imagine a PN AD coalition. What then? My bet is that PN would leave no stone unturned to make AD look like the uncomfortable partner in the coalition and the ultimate scapegoats of any failure. Then AD would have to bear the responsibility of having not only shattered their own dream but of having dissuaded yet another voting generation from such a different way of practising politics. I guess you get my drift by now. The Coalition is not an answer to the problems we have. You choose to play the game and you get your hands dirty.
My idea is that AD should become part of a greater umbrella movement for reform. The movement would be one that points out the inconsistencies of this system and strives for a discussion followed by action for change. I understand that it is arrogant of me to expect a party to forego its role in normal politics and act as the ultimate sacrifice to expose the system deficiencies. Some would say that it is the equivalent of asking it to go back to being a pressure group. I beg to differ. I recognise AD’s democratic cv and see it as the ideal vehicle for change. It has attracted capable people and is beginning to harness the potential that is needed. Its resources may be meagre but they would be ideal to begin the platform that is needed. My appeal is for AD to take up this torch sooner than later – no matter what happens in this election.</
That is about what has been. What about the vote? The conclusion is similar to that in part two. I am the first to admit that my reasons for voting AD either with your first preference vote or your second would not be taken too kindly by AD party members. This is my opinion.
Vote AD if you believe in their potential as a party. Vote AD if your personal balance of values gives priority to change. Because you want to say you have had enough and want to choose a party that promises to be different. All the doomsayers are right about one thing… the chances are remote that there will be an effective change. I disagree when they say that it is a protest vote. An AD vote is not a protest vote it is a vote FOR something different. If are thinking to use AD as a protest vote then I humbly advise you to rethink that. An AD vote must be a clear message… that notwithstanding all the mud and all the dirt being thrown in the direction of a hesitant voter you believe that this is the option that is to be taken. Voting out of mere disgruntlement will not help anyone. A negative vote never does.
The second preference option also says much about AD. It has more of a chance of being registered on the radar of post electoral examination. It will not be a useless statistic.
At this point I want to thank the AD party members and supporters for all their work despite all the adversity. I know what it means to be considered a pariah by all. I walked 200 metres in Paceville and cringed at the sight of both Labourite and Nationalist supporters making a fool of themselves chanting slogans against the other side’s leader. You’ve got a hard job to try to change this mess. Although I am not a member or a full supporter of AD I respect the work this party has done to achieve what it has achieved in its short history. I hope that in the future we can work together to continue to work on principles that I am sure we have in common.
It is a heartfelt thank you and not a dull promise made in election time. The irony is that the best way to end this article is that “Together All Is Possible
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