606 and Beyond

I must say that I certainly did not expect Labour to enjoy such a resounding victory in these MEP elections. Despite what the polls were showing I succumbed to the belief that PN stratagists had it in them to win their disgruntled flock back as they normally do in the weeks prior to an election. But it seems that they pissed off way too many people and if GonziPN truly thinks that this result does not reflect a massive loss of confidence in his government and that it's back to business as normal than I suspect that there won't be any Gonzi in GonziPN.

As much as I wish it wasn't the case one must admit that in MEP elections a great majority of people do not give a flipping hoot about pan-European issues. Basing the majority of its campaign on domestic issues gave Labour the upper hand and the ability to be constantly on the offensive whilst setting the political agenda. Without a doubt, Joseph Muscat's down-to-earth charismatic approach has drawn him many pale-blue/green votes. Moreover, his natural aptitude for quasi-militant rhetoric secured both the hardcore and the moderate Labour vote and this proved to be a great recipe for success. It is a feather in Joseph's cap to be the leader of the only party in Europe to have won an absolute majority in these elections (although in other countries there is no such thing as two-party dominance, amongst other factors such as voter apathy).

Ironically it is for the very same reasons that brought to an end my very short spell in the Labour Party that made it such a strong force. If Labour had adopted a humane approach to immigration as I had sorely wished (and still do) the PN would surely have exploited it, played the fear card (such as 'Labour voted in favour of bringing terroists in Malta' Casa-style) and would have probably won given that illegal immigration was the number 1 issue all throughout. It is in this sense that the Labour Party took a turn to the right and garnered the patriotic (a.k.a. racist) vote. By some stretch of the imagination one can compare this to Tony Blair's strategy way back in '97 when he shrewdly hijacked typical conservative issues such as 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'. As Muscat would probably put it: 'Il-Maltin toleranti imma kontra l-illegalita'.

But nothing could be further from the truth for racism has claimed its first victim in the absolute physical sense. I am referring to Suleiman Abubaker who was murdered by racist thugs in Paceville just because he happened to be African and drunk. I fear that this mass-hysteria and 'rampant racism', as Moviment Graffiti appropriately termed it, will only claim more. It would be a grave mistake to just discard this grave situation as a one-off. I heard on One News that the aggressor is now being charged with involuntary homicide. I hope that the report was bungled. Unless there was more to it than meets the eye, this man truly deserves nothing less than life imprisonment. Or does our legal system looks favourably upon those who kill in the "national interest"?

Joseph Muscat was at his best only at the very end of the campaign in Fgura. He was the inspiring politician that made me want to join Labour last November. My direct appeal to him is not to abandon the issue of illegal immigration but to reconsider his discourse and ultimately his political approach. It is not enough to state that migrants need better detention facilities and that they shouldn't be exploited by employers. I may be naive and I may be stubborn but I still believe that politicians can be successful without needing to resort to the darkest of sentiments. If Joseph wants to build a coalition of the center-left he needs to think, act and firmly believe like the Joseph in Fgura.

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3 Responses to 606 and Beyond

james debono said...

Apart from immigration, the problem is that LP is too many things at the same time and we have no clue on its economic policy. Higher deficits bad, higher spending bad, higher taxes bad etc etc. In the end we are facing a global crisis and we can't expect any government to behave normally. I do not agree with some neo-liberal policies of this government but for example at the moment I prefer higher deficits if the government injects money in factories which keep workers in employment. This coalition of the disgruntled leaves does not impress me much.
I do appreciate Muscat's commitment for secularisation. His speech on the seperation between church and state was the best one.
Still that is something which happened in Europe in the 19th century.
Do not misunderstand me I wish Labour well and it is about time that Malta has an alternation of power. But to be sincere the only impasse in Malta will only come if there are 2% of voters who come rain or sun would only vote for a progressive party. And it will only be then that the LP will start worrying.

Andrew Sciberras said...

Fully agree with you that Labour's economic policies lack coherency. In all probability Labour purposefully failed to take a firm stand on economic policy because it needed to win this election at all costs.

It is not as dirty as forgiving voters' taxes and allowing them to build in ODZs just to stay in power but Labour does need to offer its vision on the economy if it now yearns to be a government in waiting. It also needs to be more forceful on environmental issues. On social issues such as minority rights it has fared well although still not liberal enough for my liking - understandable for now.

But to be perfectly fair Labour did not criticise the injection of capital that went to safeguard jobs but the fact that only a relatively small portion of this money was spent for such reasons whereas a huge chunk of the rising deficit did not. I may be wrong on this but it is what I've come to know.

Admittedly Labour cannot just do away with the populism that makes it such a popular party. Having said that there are many many things that Labour has to remedy and I hope for the country's sake that it will not let this victory dilute or shackle in any way the reforms it needs to make to create a hegemonic coalition of the centre-left and not as you say merely an unimpressive coalition of the disgruntled.

jurgenbalzan said...

Muscat's idea of a coalition is nothing but an attempt to widen the PL voter base, something which Sant could not repeat after his short-lived success in 1996. Muscat aspires to lead the country without changing much. He wants to be at the helm of the same hegemonic block which PN has created over past 25 years. He wants to be the sole leader of a mainstream party which attempts to be everything for everyone. Muscat will never create a coalition (in the European sense) as his party will never accept the notion of sharing power with any other entity. PL wants to govern alone and Muscat will surely achieve it…one day!
There is nothing intrinsically wrong in being populist. What would worry me is a party that shapes its entire discourse on polls and surveys. A party should read the signals and be receptive of public sentiment but at times it also has to show some mettle and shape public opinion itself through responsible leadership, even if it may cost some votes. But that takes us to something else, as I cannot recall any one of the two big parties sacrificing votes to uphold any kind of principle.

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