Twenty-Two

They say that a day is a long time in politics. How about twenty two years? From the very year I was born till this very day I have known nothing but a nationalist government. For 18 years I didn't bother with politics at all and had absolutely no opinion, therefore the short stint of a Labour government from '96 - '98 was of absolutely no value to me. Ignorance was bliss. Indeed the first time I had voted was in the 2006 local council elections and I developed a bitter-sweet addiction to the pettiness of the Maltese political system since then. The more addicted I became, the more I began to despise it.

On the one hand you have the ever-growing arrogance of the nationalists who, having been victorious for so long, start to believe that the throne of power is theirs for the keeping ad aeternum. The more they win the dirtier they become and should anyone high up dare threaten that power in any way, he or she will quickly find life hell. Harry Vassallo summed up such tactics in superb form last Sunday on illum. Anyone who dared protest by not voting was swiftly given assurances and promised paradise in secret meetings but so tired has government become that this time it did not work so well. And instead of the politics that this country needs we end up with the politics of staying in power at all costs. The massive onslaught of a Labour victory in MEP elections will not change this. Instead it will just prompt the PN to make the necessary changes to its machinery by ousting all the threats in its power circle and beyond. I would not be surprised if the outcome of the recent election turns out to be a blessing in disguise for PN.

Then you've got the alternatives which for me are the PL and AD. Let me start with the PL which is the second major player in Maltese politics. I fancy myself a socialist and did indeed vote PL in the 2008 general election. I wanted to play a role in changing the political climate but above all I wanted (and still do) a political party that takes decisions rooted in the ideology of the center-left. But twenty-two years in opposition has damaged Labour big time as well. Despite Muscat's plea for Labour to start 'dreaming' once more (meta l-Partit holom, rebah), Labour seems to be abandoning certain basic principles (which for me are non-negotiable) because on the chess-board of Maltese politics ideas and principles would not and cannot kill the King. The idea may be to play dirty now, that is to fight fire with fire, and once you're at the top you can then take the decisions based on your ideals. Some (or many) may argue that this is the only way to change the face of Maltese politics: pragmatism first, ideology after.

They tell me that as I grow older the more I will realise that this is the only way. Well I can be on my death bed and I would still view it as a tragedy but let us for argument's sake assume that it is the only way. The most ideal scenario is that we would have 4 years of a Labour Party making statements based on polls and the statistics of popular opinion. During this time Muscat does not act as a leader per se but more as the face of the party, i.e. we would have a MuscatPL. Secret meetings and promises of paradise are abundant especially in those five weeks before the 2013 election. Once it is in government we witness the PL we all wished to see from the very beginning of Muscat's leadership. Muscat sheds the populism and takes the decisions that need to be taken. We accept that the means justified the end and rejoice that we finally got that which we wished for: a Malta making progress. After a while we realise that a group of people are openly attacking Muscat for making u-turns and deceiving them in the run up to the general election and we mock them, we vilify them and the more we do so the angrier they get. The angrier they get the more we try to make their life hell. Three, four years down the line we begin to accept that at least some of these people had a point.

Do you see where I am getting at?

Finally, twenty(-two) years of poor results has put a great big frown on AD's otherwise smiling sun. My fear is that the final blow has been dealt and AD bows out of the scene. It's been a tough time but hey, at least they tried. Straight from the horse's mouth, Briguglio said: 'disband or be more radical...even if we don't win'. This seems to suggest that AD has given up hope on ever winning at all. Perhaps they have accepted that they are the victim of a hopeless political system and I'm sure they're pissed off when in places like France and Germany the greens became the second strongest political force in the respective countries.

Twenty two years of the same has really messed things up for Malta.

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2 Responses to Twenty-Two

Red said...

I share the belief that the PL might start making loads of promises to various sectors of society in order to gain their sympathy and to try to win the next general election. The biggest problem is that no party could truly accept the demands of every sector since different parts of society often have antagonistic goals. Just to mention one example, how could the PL truly help the thousands of people in Malta who are earning little more than the minimum wage without putting pressure on countless companies to increase their wages?

A party that is in power must ensure that there is a basic and decent standard of living for all the citizens in the country, but this cannot translate into bowing to the demands of every sector in society. There are times when a party has to say NO!

At the moment, the PL is frequently using the words "progressivi" and "moderati". These words mean very little unless one tries to put them in a specific socio-political context.

To me, the biggest problem of virtually any centre-left party is that it fails to show a clear direction of where it wants to go. Granted, it might talk about putting people first and about getting rid of unemployment, but if we take the British Labour Party as an example, we all know that cities like London are packed with homeless people! Talking about the UK, during the past decade or so (Labour party in power), working conditions for millions of workers have deteriorated. To me, such policies are clearly not socialist ones!

james debono said...

Andrew my hunch is that malta is as it is because of over determining factors; a weak "new middle class" (people with social capital who vote according to values) and a streamed education system which perpetuates class divisions and a lack of awareness of modernity.
Changes in the class structure (which are slowly taking place) mixed with exposure to continental ideas provide both challenges and opportunities for the left.
In my opinion AD has to become more like green parties in Europe and wait for its moment which can be nearer than we think. But this depends on whether the leadership combines a sociological understanding of society with a trendy and cool party image.
As regards Labour I think that it will only move in a progressive direction if this becomes an electoral necessity.

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