NET Misinformation Alert

Those happy, funny guys at media.link have taken up an interesting hobby. Basically every time a coalition government is in trouble they are going to give this news item more prominence than they would have before. The stress will be on COALITION and not on the particular political situation in the country. The reason for this editorial choice is evident: the concept of Coalition has to be demonised in the mind of the people. Don’t expect any documentaries about stable democracies in most other countries of the EU. Expect instead to hear of Serbia’s woes, Pakistani patchwork (anti-Musharraf) and of course Italy.

My gripe here is not about coalitions and their worth but because this is an excellent example of abuse of the media by political parties for misinformation purposes. The media and its reputation has been one of the worst victims of this past electoral campaign. The party campaigns relied on their media and radio-controlled journalists heavily to generate NETspeak and ONEspeak – witness One’s insistence on”caretaker Prime Minister” and NET’s “No Regrets” campaign. It had nothing to do with news and a lot in skewering mentality. The Nationalists know what it means when the media decide to play with people’s minds like when a decision is taken not to mention Eddie Fenech Adami by name on Nationalist television.

To get back to the main argument – coalition – as an option for governance merits an objective out of the box discussion. It does not seem we will get that far, especially with people obsessed with two-party governance. The same people who believe that they have the pulse of the crowd in hand and can affirm that the people only want parties in government”. Thank God that the discussion forum is wider and we can start talking about the “polyphonic” nature of the electorate and how this can be addressed.

In the meantime remember: “Coalitions are Bad, Bad, Bad”.

…meanwhile Back in Iran… and Teheran

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49 responses to “NET Misinformation Alert

  1. Defcon 5: convince PN and MLP supporters that a coalition is bad.

    Defcon 4: announce you’ll make it nigh on impossible for a member of a small party to get elected “to avoid a bad coalition.”

    Defcon 3: wait for the AD + AN outrage to stop being constantly in the news and initiate talks with MLP.

    Defcon 2: amend the constitution.

    Defcon 1: annihilate true democracy. Bring on MLPN.

  2. Oh, come on. It’s not like the BBC gives a daily round-up of coalitions which are doing well and not reporting what’s happened in Serbia and Italy. And after all, as the Greens introduced the word “koalizzjoni” into Maltese(one wonders what word Borg-Olivier and Boffa used; “partnership”, perhaps) Net TV is only giving viewers news about the neologism given to them by the Greens.

  3. You comments beg the question: did the NP resist corruption, Dardir Malta’s conduct, autocracy in general, etc etc out of principle or out of envy?

  4. What a good idea, Jacques – it’s a pity Net News didn’t have the sense to do this before the general election. That way, lots of these brainless chickens who never bother with what’s going on in the rest of the world might not have been sold the tosh that a coalition is something to aspire to.

  5. Now why do those links on Iran remind me so much about Malta.

  6. Daphne,

    Why do you use chickens as an example for brainless objects? Chickens are lovable creatures, loyal to their mama, as the chickens hardly ever know their papa.

    Brainless primates would have been better satire.

    Nonetheless, a coalition should never be the primary aim of a major people’s party. Political practice, however, teaches that coalitions may sometimes be necessary. Of course, one would not wish to have Italian style coalitions. Holland and Belgium are also examples, where recent coalitions sooner or later ended with problems. The Ukraine is another example, although political understanding in the Ukraine belongs to other categories.

  7. Jacques…out of all the governments the world has had in the last 50 years, excluding those that fell due to war, can you mention 5 non-coalition governments that were unable to govern or fell, and 5 coalition governments that underwent the same circumstances?

    Am I wrong in assuming that its much easier to find 5 of the latter than the former? Also, how come that no coalition government (bar the Pentapartito in the 70s and eighties) ever made it to get re-elected?

    Why is it that Britain and the United States are considered as two of the Worlds biggest and oldest demoacracies and yet in their parliaments (both at Senate/House of Lords level, and Congresss/House of Commons level) they have an even lesser degree of representation than ourselves.

    If these countries prefer governability to better representation, why all this fuss about Malta, just to decrease the national quota from 8% to 5%? Shouldn’t other issues be given more importance than this? Like the publishing of party accounts (at this stage I will not remind all that it was MLP who was always against this step), the strenghthening of the commision against corruption, the publishing of all those who get a presidential pardon following a guilty verdict, together with the motivation on why they were pardoned, the setting up of a Parliamentary group which is responsable for public broadcasting, rather than having editors and PBS executives appointed directly by the minister?

    Aren’t the above also exercises in democracy? Or do you still beleive that the sole manifestation of democracy is the vote? You work in the EU’s structures (btw…well done for that). Is there anything in the EU which is less democratic than the way in which the EU commision is elected? How come you never blogged on that (in the last year at least).

    I know that I may look like a pig-head here, and don’t mind being exposed as one, as long as sound arguments are made to counteract mine. Just writing me off as a blinkered nazzjonalist is an excellent way to concede defeat 🙂

  8. VINCE COLLINS

    Is there any other democratic country in the world where a person can vote for all the parties’ candidates with one vote?

    Does anybody else except me think that this is dumb?

  9. Jon, my mind has been harping on your question as to why the world’s biggest democracies have a lesser degree of representation than us catches my attention. I have no clear opinion on the matter yet your reflection leads me onto a next question: Why is it that each political party in these developed democracies embrace members who have dissenting opinions on key issues (e.g. euro skeptics in the labour party and Europhiles in the conservative party) while collective opinion within the two Maltese parties is religiously monolithic. Where is the eurosceptics/pro divorce etc voice in either party? It is perhaps for this reason that the coalition concept may be a next natural step in the development of Maltese democracy. In fact i feel that the longer it takes us to take this next step, the weaker our democracy becomes

  10. @VINCE COLLINS

    In Malta you cannot “vote for all the parties’ candidates with one vote”. There’s a reason why it’s called single transferable vote.

  11. Dear Danny,

    I see you have no clear answer to my question, you however bring up an important question, of the different lobbies within each party. While I would not like to take Euro scepticism as an example because it doesn’t make sense to have any, less than 5 years after THE referendum, I would like to elaborate more on the divorce issue.

    But really with divorce we can include gay unions, abortion, environment with a capital E (i.e. not the usual frivolous discussion on how many lizards and trees were killing, but on the nanoparticles we’re breathing in, the noxious chemicals the fresh fish we eat are stuffed with, the incinerator that manages to infringe two fistfuls of EU parameters, the disposal of hazardous waste, the lack of surveillance of agricultural irrigation water, etc etc.) What this shows, more than anything else, is that just like some people here, the majority of the Maltese population think that the only way democracy can manifest itself is once every 22 or 60 months at the polls. Why hasn’t anyone ever protested about the above? There are a lot of masses out there who spend their lives cursing parliament for not taking into consideration their needs. Why is it that from all these groups only the hunters and the armier caravan association go around collecting signatures for their petty petitions. Does everyone agree with a ban on abortion in Malta? Does a ban on abortion make even any sense when all you need to do is take a trip to Sicily or the UK and have it their? So why can’t we even discuss these things publicly? Does it make sense to have a whole parliament dismiss the issue of legislating on abortion just because they claim they’d never go for it themselves? Does the fact that I don’t feel attracted by men preclude me from legislating on same sex unions? Apparently, in this country, Yes.

    Also…why did the Armier caravan association (not sure on the name but you get the drift), present one petition after the other to the PM, and yet no one demonstrates about the incinerator? How can the gay lobby be taken seriously if their only form of protest is to walk down republic street, dressed gingerly during the gay pride?

    Truth is, as a nation we prefer to commiserate ourselves in our make-belief misery, and rather than trying to do something about it, we grumble. During the last 5 years, the only groups that came up with any form of protest (apart from the GWU which protests no matter what) were the greenies, which were not fronted by AD but by civil society. Were the decisions on the ODZ and golf courses the only ones worth of a protest? I doubt it. Where were all the grumblers? How can any lobby group be credible if it doesn’t even lobby at all??

    Incidentally, do the laws of Malta allow for laws presented by civil society, i.e. from outside parliament, to be discussed in parliament?

  12. The real issue is not ‘coalition’ but the broader issue of democracy and representation of all sginificant views in parliament. Representation in parliament of more political groups does not necessarily lead to a coalition if one party wins a majority of seats. The issue is not one party govenment bad and coalition good. I think that we need a broader representation of views in Parliament.

    The electoral system should serve to enhance democracy. In various countries, such as Russia, there are so many rules and regulations surrounding the electoral system that it has eliminated all small parties. To a lesser extent our system works in the same way to deter small parties from participating by making it extremely difficult to win parliamentary seats.

  13. Dear Jon,

    Some off the cuff reactions to your observations:

    Euro skepticism is out of bounds…I do feel that to avoid turning us into an extension of our Southern Italian neighbors, we do need to have a euro skeptic element of substance to make us query certain aspects and to drive us onto the true main road. A Maltese/Australian observer asks – Why is corruption now accepted as long as the Govt. gets what it wants from the EU? What has the EU done to the Maltese character and psyche? Has Malta now turned fully dependent on the EU as it did with the
    Knights of St John and The British Empire? You can have us
    as long as the money is coming in? Is there no National pride anymore?
    Are we not the brave islanders anymore? Have we become the beggars of
    Europe? Throw us a crust and we are yours? Is this Malta’s image in
    Europe now?

    I know that these sentiments are shared by many across all kinds of political/cultural/etc divides yet they are not adequately represented in parliament and a discredited and motley CNI ensures that our eu ‘psyche’ has gone stagnant. we dare not question it as we dare not question so many other aspects of a healthy well-being enjoyed by our european partners that remain out of bounds to us (tomorrow a friend of mine is taking his grandfather to the UK (not for an abortion 🙂 but to be cremated according to his wishes.

    It was not my intention to devote so much time to this issue yet seeing that it has taken so much space I end my thoughts here. My point is that beyond having pressure groups, one need to have a minority voice in parliament on issues that the two major parties dare not embrace. I was indeed surprised to learn that the MLP had refused a certain Sharon to be their candidate because they saw her as a person who wants to take Malta out of the EU. If that is truly the case than Sharon would have challenged concepts to improve our attitudes towards the eu. Unchallenged concepts will simply sag and wither.

    Regards

  14. VINCE COLLINS

    Fausto, whatever it’s called, the fact that it can be transferred to different candidates from different parties is dumb. I can’t believe that they can’t come up with a system where one vote goes to one party, that way you won’t have the situation that could have came about in this election where, if the MLP voters had given their “number two” to ANOTHER party ( AD) in one of the districts, their party would have won the election.

    @Danny Attard….

    the answer to your questions…yes, nothing, yes, yes,no,no, yes and yes.

  15. Jon, you asked why many people feel that voting is the only form of voicing their interest/concern/protest/satisfaction with a particular state of affairs or about a certain issue. Well, it’s not. But it’s the most potent form of expression or protest. There’s a very interesting article about this in the Economist this week or last week where it is shown that protests by civil society/sectors of society etc have practically no effect.

  16. Protests in the Gdansk drydocks sparked off the fall of communism across Europe. Other examples? Here are some, Ukraine, Georgia, the youth in Locri, in East Timor, in Spain (to bring the boys back home from Iraq), in Rome (remember the rain of coins showering Craxi on his way out of the Hotel Rafael), the protest in Russia in 1992, Sicily, South Africa (does the anti-apartheid movement ring any bells?), the anti-caste protests in India last year, do I really need to go on?

    Also, on a totally different level…Lawrence decided to go back from his plans for golf courses after the protest in which you famously featured. Do you think Lorry would ever recondiser anything?

    Summary: yes protests are useful, and whoever says otherwise should start reading some history.

  17. Of course protests are useful. The French Revolution comes to mind 🙂 yet would it have been necessary in the first place if the third estate was adequately represented thereby mitigating the social burdens emanating from the huge war debt, the impact of the tax on crops, consequently widespread malnutrition and so on and so forth. Is it not all relative and have we not since then come a long way as today’s issues are far removed from events at the Bastille and Gdansk

  18. Jon – Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, the Million Man March, and then there are those that didn’t actually achieve anything in material terms, but which showed that the human spirit was alive and well: the October 56 uprising in Budapest, the Prague Spring, that lone man standing in front of a row of tanks in Tianamen Square in June 1989, Jan Palach….

  19. VINCE COLLINS

    MLK and the Civil Rights Movement and Louis Farrakhan and the Million Man March had only one thing in common….they involved “African Americans”, other than that they had nothing in common.

    MLK and Farrakhan are as different as night and day.

  20. Antoine Vella

    danny attard Says:
    March 15, 2008 at 10:07 am
    “A Maltese/Australian observer asks – Why is corruption now accepted as long as the Govt. gets what it wants from the EU? What has the EU done to the Maltese character and psyche? Has Malta now turned fully dependent on the EU as it did with the
    Knights of St John and The British Empire? You can have us
    as long as the money is coming in? Is there no National pride anymore?
    Are we not the brave islanders anymore? Have we become the beggars of
    Europe? Throw us a crust and we are yours? Is this Malta’s image in
    Europe now?”

    You are making many assumptions none of which are supported by real evidence.

    Corruption accepted? What are you talking about? Brave islanders? What do you mean by “we are yours”?

    Malta’s image in Europe is of a country that is successful in putting its finances in order, attracting investment, creating new employment opportunities, modernising itself and contributing to rhe Euro-Med dialogue, among other things.

  21. “contributing to the Euro-Med dialogue, among other things”

    Yes, nice contribution.

    Signing papers while having breakfast, lunch and a souflet.

    Any link where the Prime Minister referred to this Euro-Med dialogue after his arrival to Malta?

  22. Antoine Vella

    Sandro Says:
    March 16, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    “Any link where the Prime Minister referred to this Euro-Med dialogue after his arrival to Malta?”

    No.

  23. Dear Mr Vella, the assumptions you refer to are in fact questions. Questions are normally put at the start of a discussion/debate that seeks to analyze a specific topic, you know like what you see on BBC, CNN etc. Questions are not viewed kindly in less developed pseudo democracies where a few individuals profess to have the truth and damned be the barbarous rest. And who says that Malta is really earning her spurs at being the Cuba in the Mediterranean? You state, for example, that Malta’s image in Europe is of a country that is successful in putting its finances in order. I have a question for you: S&P state in a post election statement that Malta’s ratings would come under pressure …if there are significant setbacks in implementing the reform agenda. Can you expand on what this reform agenda entails and how was this agenda discussed in the recent electoral campaign? And why do we still need a reform agenda if our finances are so much in order? I opine that the reason we need coalitions is that the two main parties are led by polls as influenced by Xarabank discussion (lol) while minor parties can be brave enough to deal with the issues that really matter and not relegate this issues to bottom line cliches like il finanzi fis sod

  24. I opine that the reason we need coalitions is that the two main parties are led by polls as influenced by Xarabank discussion (lol) while minor parties can be brave enough to deal with the issues that really matter and not relegate this issues to bottom line cliches like il finanzi fis sod.

    Yeah, sure. With Harry Vassallo not bothering to fill in his tax forms for ten years I’m sure he’d made a great and brave Minister of Finance.

  25. Hi Fausto, i can not see Dr Vassallo being a finance minister in a coalition. A coalition comes together when a minor party agrees on a few deal-breakers as the main party proceeds to govern ‘undisturbed’. The minor party’s presence in parliament would translate into a platform to extend debate onto so many areas as yet left desolate by our present two party representation. There are so many areas that cry for urgent reform (look at our terrible TV fare, etc etc etc) that the two mager parties will not address. I have the impression that Dr Vassallo’s failure you mention is a technicality if that. See what ADs efforts in environment/rent/etc etc issues have achieved. I think that these efforts would translate into much stronger results if AD had a parliamentary platform.

  26. Fausto, I usually find your contributions informative and interesting but after your unfounded comment regarding the Naxxar fireworks being linked to Labour supporters and this apparent inability to post any comment without having a dig at the Greens, I don’t think you’re so objective after all…. No matter – everyone has his pet hate after all.
    Jon, I did not say that protests are useless (It was the Economist which said they’re relatively ineffective) but casting one’s vote is a more potent form of “protesting”. Also – just to point out a slight inaccuracy – the protest which you refer to was not about the golf course but about the extension of the development zones. Despite the many protests from all environmental quarters Lawrence did not reconsider this. That’s because the protests took place mid-term and not close to election

    The golf course which was Gonzi’s idea in the first place was reconsidered because Marco Cremona made a study showing that the area was eminently unsuitable for a golf course because of the potential damage to the underlying aquifier. The aquifier is already in a bad state – making it worse because of a fixation with golf would be gravely irresponsible.

    I will limit myself to the Maltese situation – governments tend to listen or change their course prior to election times. Otherwise they tend to hold out and weather the protest storm

  27. Dear Fausto,

    I happened to know the percimes’ sister. I spoke to her on Friday, Duluri Day. She was destroyed not cause of her brother but for the innocent women. She repeated several time they never knew about the illegal fireworks.

    He had five garages full of fireworks. Of course, not reserved for the elections but for the Naxxar feast.

    He was a Nationalist supporter.

    Dear Antoine,

    you see my friend.

    The Euro-med dialogue, Club-med dialogue and bla bla bla….paying Tonio and Gonzi’s flights to sign papers coming back and details? Where are the details? The summary of what happened there. I think we will know in five years.

    The government should stop treating people as blind/deaf/stupid. There are people like me, and I really want you, Daphne and Fausto to join the club, to keep an eye on our government and on our opposition. It is our right. We are paying them no to defend them or attacking them, but to have results or information at the very least.

  28. Claire and Jon,

    I believe in protests. A nice protest will be peeing in the voting room, otherwise is crap.

    “remember the rain of coins showering Craxi on his way out of the Hotel Rafael”
    Berlusconi could be elected in a few days. Enough said.

  29. Antoine Vella

    danny attard Says:
    March 16, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    “Dear Mr Vella, the assumptions you refer to are in fact questions.”

    Your questions were rhetorical ones. When you ask, for example, why we’re accepting corruption, the assumption is that we are accepting it.

  30. Claire, in Malta protests make even more sense, given the fact that there are only 2 electable parties (and, given MLP’s current mess, even less than 2). All the changes one wants to see have to be lobbied through the parties currently in parliament, especially when we have a prime minister that has shown himself to be wise enough to make other parties prime policies his own when he recognises that they are valid (and for those who are unable to read between the lines, vote winning) ideas. Take MEPA reform, the rent laws, the issues of better funding for research and so on.

    I didn’t include the electoral reform purposely, as what he hinted he wanted to change, is light years away from what we want in here. Incidentally, he is the Gonzi of the Gonzi report fame that proposed that there shoudl be a 5% national treshold for a party to be elected. This is one area, in which the PM could definately do with a u-turn.

    I finish with a little aside. Doesn’t anyone find it ridiculous that in Malta a person with as past as ugly as that of Anglu Farrugia, not only makes it parliament, become one of the most prominent shadow ministers and potential minister, but also aspires to become leader of the opposition? Da che pulpito!

  31. Antoine Vella

    danny attard Says:
    March 16, 2008 at 5:32 pm
    “You state, for example, that Malta’s image in Europe is of a country that is successful in putting its finances in order. I have a question for you: S&P state in a post election statement that Malta’s ratings would come under pressure …if there are significant setbacks in implementing the reform agenda. Can you expand on what this reform agenda entails and how was this agenda discussed in the recent electoral campaign? And why do we still need a reform agenda if our finances are so much in order?”

    Malta is putting its finances in order: we wouldn’t have been able to adopt the euro if our finances were in a very bad state. We still have a deficit and still need to work more to bring it down. This was one of the electoral promises of the PN – turning the deficit into a surplus. Although the economy was not one of the hottest subjects during the electoral campaign, it is not correct to say that it was totally absent.

    As for the so-called ‘reform agenda’, this was also discussed, albeit indirectly. Do you really expect the party leaders and other candidates to use jargon like ‘Lisbon process’, ‘National Reform Programme’, ‘strategy guidelines’ and other terms in their public speeches?

    Education, environment, employment, competitiveness and IT development all featured in the political debates, some more than others, together with the government’s finances, taxation, etc. These are all aspects of the very complex reforms that all EU countries are expected to carry out.

    It is true that, compared to some other countries, we still have a lot of ground to cover but I cannot see how a coalition would have been of benefit. This government listens to all opinions and often implements suggestions put forward by NGOs and individuals. There is really no need for a parliamentary seat to participate in the country’s development – all that is needed is know-how and, especially, goodwill.

  32. Antoine Vella

    Sandro Says:
    March 16, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    “The Euro-med dialogue, Club-med dialogue and bla bla bla….paying Tonio and Gonzi’s flights to sign papers coming back and details? Where are the details? The summary of what happened there. I think we will know in five years.”

    The Euro-Med dialogue is just that: a dialogue. Politicians, representing countries, talking to each other and seeking to sort out their differences amicably, while strengthening their friendship.

    We should not expect any dramatic and spectacular breakthroughs but a patient intricate diplomacy that will give results in small, almost imperceptible steps. It might not be the most exciting foreign policy but I don’t see any other alternative in our region.

    Incidentally Malta’s role goes back many years, at least since the nineties, but membership in the EU has given us a greater say in such matters.

  33. “It might not be the most exciting foreign policy but I don’t see any other alternative in our region.”

    Why not Antoine? Are you saying that the Maltese has nothing to offer rather than participating discussions? I am not saying your affirm that. I am just asking.

    Is this Euro-Med dialogue has something to do with the “Club-Med”? If yes, I am not sure it was just about a friendly discussion.

  34. @Claire

    Fausto, I usually find your contributions informative and interesting but after your unfounded comment regarding the Naxxar fireworks being linked to Labour supporters and this apparent inability to post any comment without having a dig at the Greens, I don’t think you’re so objective after all…. No matter – everyone has his pet hate after all.

    To both charges I have no problem pleading guilty. On the first I admit I was too quick in “joining the dots” considering what was being discreetly carted away from Labour Party Clubs all over the country.

    As to the second it happens because the Greens in Malta, given their electoral support, are over-represented everywhere (incidentally the only place where they are fairly “represented” is Parliament). I know of no other case (except for Italy, perhaps, but then Italy is Italy) where a Party with 1.5% receives so much coverage and prominence. It is inevitable that issues related to the Greens end up on my blogging radar. If my “digs” may be regular but I thin I have always been fair (which may be different from “objective” but then that’s a concept I’ve never really understood).

    J’ACCUSE COMMENT: Yeah, and I think your fairness sort of hits a brick wall when it comes to conceding that the Greens in Malta have been instrumental in putting the Environment on the political agenda. As Peppi Azzopardi remarked in one of his rare flashes of actual conducting last Friday, AD are the main reason why the MLPN have polished up their environmental credentials. Not only that, other issues, as pointed out by the ever-more lovable Victor tal-AD (I’d make him a President for the PEOPLE), have made it to the government agenda only after AD has harped on them for a long time – see the Rent Law. Of course this leads to the other ever-so fair comment that their place should be as a pressure group…which says more about the proposer than the proposed idea. Or it leads to some combobulated assertion that PN’s damscene conversion in seeing the light with regards to the environment had nothing to do with AD’s sun. In which case I say, pull another one. Were it not for AD’s potential vote-winning IN A GENERAL ELECTION, AD’s proposals would have risked being treated like those of any other “tiny” pressure group… such as the odd 90% of the population who did not exactly express a particular liking for spring hunting. Rather.

  35. Antoine Vella

    Sandro Says:
    March 17, 2008 at 12:59 am

    “Are you saying that the Maltese has nothing to offer rather than participating discussions? I am not saying your affirm that. I am just asking.

    Is this Euro-Med dialogue has something to do with the “Club-Med”? If yes, I am not sure it was just about a friendly discussion.”

    In the area of dialogue between Europe and North Africa the emphasis is on creating a sense of security where no country feels threatened by any other.

    This is carried out by encouraging contacts between politicians and common people from different countries and cultures.

    Conferences. seminars and other forms of meetings are the main tools. Admittedly, for some these events are just an excuse to have a holiday but we should not think that nothing comes out of such initiatives.

    There are also courses, youth projects, cultural events and other joint initiatives to create more understanding. Trade betwen the two areas us also being intensified and within a few years there should be a free market for agricultural products as well as industrial ones. As I said earlier, nothing ground-breaking but a slow steady grind to decrease tension.

    My point, in response to Danny’s pessimistic views, is that within the EU, Malta is not simply a “beggar” or a country without identity. The presence of Malta and Cyprus in the EU has strengthened the Mediterranean dimension of the EU.

  36. Antoine Vella

    “J’ACCUSE COMMENT: Yeah, and I think your fairness sort of hits a brick wall when it comes to conceding that the Greens in Malta have been instrumental in putting the Environment on the political agenda.”

    This is most unfair to NGOs like BirdLife (formerly MOS) Nature Trust (Formerly MNHS and SSCN) and others who had been campaigning for years, without seeking any personal gain.

    The first bird sanctuary was set up in 1978 and the first modern law regulating hunting was enacted in 1981 (both during the Mintoff years and the result of the non-partisan nature of BirdLife).

    What AD has done is to transform environmental issues into political football. Stanley Zammit, for example, never received any support from AD because it was not in their interest to support a PN Parl. Secretary. This was 15 years ago and the PN paid a heavy price in the 1996 elections for its policy regardng hunting. As always, this went to the MLP’s advantage.

    Likewise, the enormous advances made recently in waste management have not received any recognition by AD because this would have worked against their partisan interests.

    It was a PN government which drafted the Structure Plan and set up the Planning Authority in 1992/93 to put some order in the chaotic and corrupt way that building permits had been issued under Labour. This was probably the single most important step in regulating building development and it was done without any prompting by anyone, least of all AD. People may complain about MEPA now but let us not forget where we came from in this field.

    AD has systematically hijacked legitimate environmental issues and tried to gain political mileage out of all initiatives of non-partisan NGOs. The truth is that AD is no different from any other party and are as concerned with votes as all the others.

    J’ACCUSE COMMENT: It’s not unfair Antoine. It’s time to stop sitting on the fence and decide: either you want AD to be a pressure group like Birdlife (and there is nothing wrong with being a pressure group) but admit that no matter how much support Birdlife garnered or awareness it created we still have the possibility of Spring Hunting in 2008 (15 years after it was an issue and PN paid a heavy price) because the government does not necessarily listen to pressure groups (notwithstanding Joe Saliba’s post-electoral Karma of Nisimghu lill-poplu) OR you admit that the MLPN only started reacting properly on environmental matters when the threat of losing votes to a third party because of the environment issues existed. That they did adapt, and in the case of PN – that they did incorporate many of AD’s plans and made them their own is a credit to the third party – which rightly (instead of whingeing) is equally happy that these policies are adopted by the other government – which, if you remove the partisan wool from the assessment, shows you that it is less about vote grabbing and hijacking and more about achieving policy objectives. Barring certain post-electoral sour grapes and bitterness, insofar as acknowledging that their agenda is still in government, AD seem to adapt to the Flimkien kollox possibbli much faster than certain PN commentators – still hell bent on destroying and semblance of diverse representation than opening up to more discussion and input.

  37. Claire Bonello

    Fair enough Fausto, so let’s move on. I gather that your “objection” or “disinterest” (call it what you will) with the Greens is what you claim is an over-representation everywhere given their level of electoral support. I don’t really see where this over-representation lies. In the media? Excluding Smash, the non-state media is owned by the PN and the MLP and owners of the station have every right to do what they will with their station. As for PBS – the situation still favours the major parties, so no Green over representation there. Are you grudging them those miserly pre-election political debates? What about the newspapers? Are the Greens over-represented there? I don’t think so. Tot up the columnists/politicians with a pro-Nationalist or pro-Labour bias and you’ll see that they outnumber the ones with a pro-Green bias. In any case, what would you have editors do – censure or not publish columns or letters from writers with a Green bias simply because they’re not represented in Parliament?

  38. If you take Bondiplus, the political debates would always start with a PN minister and/or an MLP shadow minister. Then someone from AD and AN would join them after an hour.

    The only place AD might be over-represented is this blog, this week. Two weeks ago this place was filled to the brim with MLP supporters who have now gone quiet.

  39. Keith Chircop, the Bondiplus line-up is a reflection of reality, not of prejudice.

  40. At least with blogs like this one, every one gets a chance to speak out – be they PN, MLP, AD, AN, independent, non of the above. I’ve noticed that the blogs where all the comments are a slightly different version of the same thing, “Gonzi is great”, “Labour is lovely” soon cease to be interesting. A rational exchange of ideas is far better

  41. Dear Mr Antoine Vella,

    Yes I do see your point in reading rhetoric in that specific question. (Why is corruption now accepted as long as the Govt. gets what it wants from the EU?). I will take the question to be my own and will rephrase it as follows: Where is the Maltese voice that challenges EU corruption? As ‘everhopeful’ says, the real issue is not coalition but the broader issue of democracy and representation of all significant views in parliament. All our MEPs, all our MPs, officially treat the EU as if she were a ferrari engine made in heaven. Yet we should know and accept the ins and outs of its mechanisms; How many Maltese know of the scandals leading to the mass-resignation of Commissioners in 1999? I would say that this was also brought about by vigilant MEPs and resignations may have resulted in a stronger EU. Yet still so much ground needs to be covered. Where is the Maltese voice in this process? On a different plane, are we aware of the role of ‘European agencies’ and their influence on national civil servants. The influence of powerful lobby groups that ‘initiate’ and ‘lobby’ specific laws. etc etc. If anything we need to understand these ins and out if are are to derive all material benefits that are due to us.

    OK so the AD too sees the EU as being the land of sunshine and honey, yet our parliament must open itself for dissenting views if it is to progress into a dynamic institution that will pilot Malta into modern (oh what a cliché’) times.

  42. Exactly. I think the way Bondiplus was set up was quite fair towards AD and AN. I was disagreeing with who said the small parties were given too much air-time, too many columns on newspapers. Givng them more than the hideous 5 mins they gave to Emmy Bezzina is not too much coverage in my book.

  43. Dear Mr Antoine Vella (2) 🙂

    We wouldn’t have been able to adopt the Euro if our finance were in a very bad state

    well, the way you put your statement I have to quasi agree because it contrasts to an original ‘finances in order’ statement. Keeping our eye on coalitions however and the need of a balancing voice in parliament, i would say that the real state of our finances is not being properly put in front of joe public. The impression has been given that our finances are shipshape, anzi aktar minn hekk, li Mr Prime Minister has knocked our finances into shape and he will now move on to deal with he next major problem – MEPA.

    Thank goodness that the elections are over and we can at this point discuss any issue freely.

    The most important answer I needed from Mr Prime Minister is whether convergence was real or nominal. I have a distinct feeling that deficit targets were achieved by increasing tax revenues at a pace that outstripped GDP growth. Therefore convergence happened at the expense of economy and will continue to press as the reform agenda impacts further. I must admit I am not on comfortable ground here. My point is that these key elements were not effectively present in the electoral campaign and a third small party in parliament can surely provide further trust to informative debate that will lead to a better informed electorate that will not be as vulnerable to expensive marketing campaigns. I would also agree that better than having a coalition, parties would allow any of their MPs to shout and rave in Parliament – a NP MP shouting no il finanzi mhux vera fis sod, claim that euthanasia is a right etc and likewise an MLP MP who would want out of the EU, divorzju illum etc

  44. Daphne Says:
    March 17, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    “Keith Chircop, the Bondiplus line-up is a reflection of reality, not of prejudice”.

    Daphne,

    Kindly allow me a mischievous manipulation of your words:

    Lou Bondi lines up ingredients of reality through elements of his personal prejudice.

  45. Yeah, and I think your fairness sort of hits a brick wall when it comes to conceding that the Greens in Malta have been instrumental in putting the Environment on the political agenda. As Peppi Azzopardi remarked in one of his rare flashes of actual conducting last Friday, AD are the main reason why the MLPN have polished up their environmental credentials. Not only that, other issues, as pointed out by the ever-more lovable Victor tal-AD (I’d make him a President for the PEOPLE), have made it to the government agenda only after AD has harped on them for a long time – see the Rent Law.

    Now, I don’t read minds. But when claims that the Greens “made us aware of the environment” or the Greens “made us aware of the situation of old rents” should be treated with the same attitude as when they claimed paternity for the word “koalizzjoni.

    Antoine mentioned some historical examples. He did miss out one: Din l-Art Helwa’s campaign against the Excelsior in the late 1960s. At around the same time we also had our first town planning act, sadly never brought into effect by the incoming Labour government. And take a look at the Nationalist Party’s manifesto of 1981 when the first “Planning Commission”, the precursor of MEPA, gets its first mention.

    Or the old rent laws? Everyone knows they need to be changed. But how? Even the Greens are clueless on this matter: one week they tell the landowners they’re right to be indignant, the next they tell tenants they don’t have to worry. Here’s Harry Vassallo at his flip-flopping best: one day he says older tenants should be protected irrespective of their income, the next he’s mocking Bertu Mizzi because he lives in a house with a protected rent.

    It is significant that when Cristina said that she’ll get to working on her White Paper the Greens came up with a “declaration of principles. Thanks you very much, how about we get to the details?

    And have you ever asked yourself why in half a century the old rents were never reformed? Because nobody likes the sight of these tenants (most of them elderly) with their furniture on the kerb. And nobody would like to risk that.

    There were other people, other organisations who campaigned, with varying degrees of success, for things which the Greens also campaigned for. The only difference is that they did not claim exclusive rights on the matter.

    Quite appropriate you mention the sun metaphor. Inevitably, the Greens always remind me of that old king in “The Little Prince” who though himself that he was lord of the universe because the sun obeyed his order to rise in the morning and set in the evening.

  46. Claire Bonello

    Oh come on Fausto, you can do better than this. Seriously, now, this is not your usual rational, informative self. Let’s address the rent reform issue first. You say that nobody has reformed the old rent laws because nobody wants to see the sight of these poor elderly tenants with their furniture on the kerb? Does reform really have to mean chucking out poor old 99-year old Vincenzo and dumping his Zimmerframe on his head? Of course not. To begin with a simple legislative amendment to the effect that there is no inheritance of old leases would be a start. That way the elderly would live out the rest of their days in their homes but their younger relatives who pretend that they live with them, would not inherit property rights for a pittance. You may ask what would happen to Vincenzo’s elderly spouse? Well, this could be factored into the equation and a solution found. The PN has been promising some sort of reform for ages? Have they given up (because of elderly tenants on the kerb?) or are they still getting around to it?
    And of course other organisations have campaigned with other degrees of success for various causes – the Greens have never claimed to have exclusive rights on the matter – still as Simon Busuttil has admitted it was the Greens which made the environment a priority on the Government’s agenda.

  47. Antoine Vella

    J’ACCUSE COMMENT: “It’s time to stop sitting on the fence and decide: either you want AD to be a pressure group like Birdlife . . . . . . OR you admit that the MLPN only started reacting properly on environmental matters when the threat of losing votes to a third party because of the environment issues existed.”

    I do not think AD should become a pressure-group.

    For one thing, the NGO scene in Malta is already overcrowded and we don’t need another organisation. It would, moreover, seem like a demotion from a party and an AD pressure group would not have the credibility of other societies.

    AD has to remain a party but a real one, not the charade it has been up to now. It has to accept itself as ‘just’ another party and not God’s gift to Maltese politics (one might argue that, at times, the PN and MLP also behave arrogantly but at least they have the numbers to back them up)

    It has always struck me as ironic that AD’s principles are, on paper, very leftist – even verge on the marxist at times – but they have no following among the traditional leftist electorate. This is a party which represents what passes for the far left in the Maltese political spectrum. On paper; only on paper.

    How come that with all this ‘social-justice-and-speaking-for-the-downtrodden’ rhetoric, AD is completely ignored by the “working classes”? How many Dockyard workers are AD activists? How many machine operators or factory hands? How many manual labourers?

    In a previous post, Daphne mentioned that farmers do not vote for AD. Farmers consider themselves manual workers but cannot identify with a Harry or a Claire and it is the same with other categories: fishermen, stone-masons, shop assistants, etc.

    Isn’t it strange that a party which pretends to be in favour of ‘the workers’ should have its relative strongholds in Sliema and Swieqi, predominantly upper-middle class areas?
    Even their favourite issues of environment and rent laws are characteristically middle-class ones.

    When Fenech Adami took over the PN, he realised that the MLP’s quasi-monopoly among the working class had to be broken. A Workers’ Secretariat was set up, led by Furtu Selvatico and other Dockyard workers and they set about the long, slow, often dangerous (we all remember the Dockyard violence) work of persuading workers that the PN was their party too. Thirty years on, the party can challenge the MLP as a ‘workers’ party’.

    Compared to the seventies and eighties, it is now much easier and safer for a political party to convey its message to workers but AD has no message for them. This is the real weakness of AD: they are mostly a bunch of mummy’s boys and girls role-playing being politicians and martyrs. It is all a sham and they can never have any impact on society as long as they remain so transparently artificial.

    For one thing they need a leader who is not such a primadonna and who does not need to ask the President to pardon him for any wrong-doing.

    J’ACCUSE COMMENT: The assumption that AD is a worker’s party is yours Antoine. The words “Green Party” seem to me to encompass something that transcends class. Also, what statistics are we using to assess the farmers vote? The following might sound like a jibe but it is not… does it include part-time farmers? The following is a political jibe -does it include part-time farmers who lease off their land and then claim to have no idea what is being done with it? The green vote has long evolved elsewhere… as I said to Daphne earlier… if you still think environment is all about farming then it may be time to do some homework.

  48. Antoine Vella

    J’ACCUSE COMMENT: “The assumption that AD is a worker’s party is yours Antoine. The words “Green Party” seem to me to encompass something that transcends class.”

    My assumpation is that AD is NOT a workers’ party even though they like to be seen as such. The Italian Greens, of which Cassola is an MP are even more the the left than the ex-Communist party.

    J’ACCUSE COMMENT: “Also, what statistics are we using to assess the farmers vote? ”

    I mentioned farmers as an example of working class voters, not in the context of the environment. Since some 13 of the 14 thousand Maltese farmers are part-timers I was obviously referring to them too.

    One has only to look at the AD’s votes to see where the bulk of them comes from: middle-class areas. I’ve been working with farmers since 1978 and have never met an AD supporter.

    J’ACCUSE COMMENT: “… if you still think environment is all about farming then it may be time to do some homework.”

    I never thought that so I cannot still think it. The environment is ALSO countryside however, not just farming but afforestation, landscape management, prevention of erosion, safeguarding of the water table and other aspects which are being taken care of by the government but virtually absent from AD’s agenda.

    There are of course other issues which are being dealt with, such as waste management, air quality and urban development. The hullabaloo raised around JPO’s Mistra proposal was made possible because, years ago, the Nationalist government established authorities such as MEPA and created a system of checks and balances which is now working.

    When judging a government over a number of years, it is not so much the actions of one or two individuals that have to be considered but the entire system in all its expressions, be they political, economic, social, environmental etc.

  49. I agree with you 100%, Antoine – just a small point, though. In political and demographic/social terms, you have to distinguish between true farmers (rural communities) and the urban working class. They are completely different classes of people and this is evident in their work ethic, thinking and general attitude towards life. Most of the latter vote Labour; most of the former – certainly where I live, the farming heartland of Malta – vote PN.

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