The Malta Independent 30 October 2014, Thursday

(Alas) Daphne’s Right. Is she now?

Malta Independent Sunday, 10 February 2008, 00:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

Writing on his blog J’Accuse, Jacques Rene Zammit wrote a lengthy reply to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s article “Settle down and read this, please” that appeared in The Malta Independent on Sunday last week.

Daphne is right, Dr Zammit wrote. The current electoral formula does not allow you to focus on the party you want in power. It does not allow you to say “Hey. I don’t like the Nationalists. I will not even vote for the MLP when I’m dead lest my vote be counted with that of the living. Then why not vote for AD?”

As the European Parliament elections proved, given the chance 20,000 or so individuals would vote for a different kind of politician. Given the chance people will change voting habits. “The bigwigs at MLPN noticed that and last year they dealt the final blow to this possibility. They took away the chance for thousands of voters (even Daphne’s chance) to vote for another party when irked with the two of them. They created the mathematical formula that underlies Daphne’s argument. She is right. Of course she is right. Under the present magical formula concocted by the PN and passed unanimously in Parliament, 20,000 votes spread among the 13 districts of the country can be lost. A party garnering 20,000 votes will not get one single seat in Parliament.

The magic words “proportional representation” have been neutered to an insulting situation where: if, and only if, two parties are elected to Parliament under the present system then the seats shall be allocated proportionally to their national vote.

Daphne is right. What she is telling us is this. If you were ever thinking of changing the political spectrum in this country you have been royally screwed. The disincentive first trumpeted to the masses by then PM Fenech Adami - vote AD get Labour - is now here to stay.

In one fell swoop PN got rid of the only party that could seriously challenge its programmes with an alternative vision of doing politics. It was one fell swoop that guaranteed the status quo in our political scene. What we have is an alternating chair. So long as Labour remain the band of inept politicians that the PN machinery depict, then PN’s place in government is virtually guaranteed.

Sorry Claire. You cannot go on campaigning without showing the second half of your poster. No “Vote Harry” without “Get Freddy”.

But then Dr Zammit added: “I have other plans on my mind. You see Daphne, I too am one of the chatterers. I would love to not have been brutally disenfranchised by the electoral reforms. Like you I am often baffled at the way politicians in this country are ineffective because they live secure to see another day - since electoral scrutiny has turned into a PN vs MLP farce. Our paths split the day you decided to accept the way MLPN voted to hold your vote to ransom.

I am fully aware of the repercussions of voting AD. I am fully aware of the “wasted vote syndrome” in our elections. Unlike you however I think that the responsibility is not mine to bear but that of MLPN and their electoral reform. Come election day I will exercise my right to vote. I will continue to use my vote to provoke change in Maltese politics. And the day my vote for Harry translates to a vote for Freddie I do not believe I should be the one to do the worrying… I’ll leave that to whoever came up with this wonderful idea that my vote is worthless and worth wasting.”

This post also appeared in the other blog The Malta Chronicle.

Predictably, it generated a widespread reaction and no less than 63 responses were written in.

Daphne herself wrote in. On 30 January she wrote: “Hey, Jacques. Of course it’s not your problem: you live in Luxembourg. You can vote, get on a plane back home, and leave us with Sant as prime minister. Sadly, I don’t have the luxury of doing the same. Unlike you, I have to live with the consequences of my actions - hell, I even have to live with the consequences of YOUR actions. Like I said, there’s no room for romantic notions in elections: Britain, the world’s oldest democracy with the mother of all parliaments, is still dominated by the Conservatives and Labour, even though there’s a liberal party there, somewhere.”

Jacques René Zammit replied: “If it was really not my problem I would not worry about it all year round. Unlike most people I live politics on a daily basis and bungled decisions, fireworks factory explosions, MEPA disasters, sale of public land for development and other MLPN fandangos do not make me any happier. Maybe I do feel a bit of a snob when I say that I see much farther than the current election. So what? You are happy to be royally screwed by PN who knew it would come to the wasted vote argument when they passed the electoral laws? I am not. They knew that more and more people would be considering a different vote - what best way to dissuade them than turn it into a wasted vote? What stopped them from putting a national quota for a number of seats in Parliament? Nothing. Except that they knew that it would open the doors to AD and any other party that takes politics seriously.

“Does Sant worry me? The prospect does. Of course it does. But then I would be unfair to myself and my principles if I were to vote for a party that thinks it can take me for a ride whenever it wants.

“Today the electoral reforms. Tomorrow an independent cabinet answerable to a proportionally elected parliament within a presidential system. Detach the men governing from their constant dependence on the vote - then maybe, just maybe, they will stop deciding whether or not to enforce stronger fireworks regulations depending on the effect it has on votes.

An Anton wrote in: “May I remind you and everybody else in here the ‘dark 80s’ dominated by a horrific socialist rule (of which Sant was a key player). If it wasn’t for the PN most of you in this blog would not have been able to pursue secondary and tertiary education.

May I also remind you other PN achievements: EU membership, entry in Eurozone, reduction of public debt, positive GDP etc..

Admittedly PN has been in power for too long and corruption is the order of the day but still I cannot feel a breath of fresh air coming from the opposition.

With regards to AD, I repeat ad nauseam - this is a leftist pressure group which consequently can afford to speak and criticise freely as it has simply nothing to lose. Malta has had enough of leftist parties and ancillary organisations, these have been Europe’s scourge for a century. In Malta’s case, they are also subtly infiltrating the PN and affecting its policies and this is unacceptable.

David Friggieri wrote: Time and time again we take it as a given that only a minute percentage of traditionally Labour voters vote Alternattiva. In fact the impression is given that ALL Alternattiva votes come from the PN side. Is nobody in Labour fed up with MLPN? Are they still ALL voting tribally in 2007?

A Claire wrote: There is this hysterical portrayal of MLP as everything wrong and un-European. There is hardly any mention of the PN government’s dragging its feet and creative interpretation of sticking to European laws and standards for - the real reason why we voted for EU accession and not because we were particularly persuaded by Taht it-Tinda ex-Labour converts like Eileen Montesin.

Under a Nationalist government we have seen the PN turn somersaults to evade its obligations under European law - hunting and building messes are just a couple of cases in point. I don’t expect there to be any change if Labour gets elected. If AD gets in then there might be a change for the better. And if my AD vote is wasted, well then blame Lawrence not me.

The PN is dependent on the business and construction lobby for its cash. This has led it to have selective bouts of amnesia when it comes to certain issues such as permitting more parts of our countryside to be developed - when there is no specific need for this. It was the PN not the MLP which said “let’s increase the development zones”, It was the PN which allowed MEPA to become what it is. It was the PN which allowed a fireworks factory to start operating again practically next door to people’s residence. It was the PN not the MLP which has presided over late completion of capital projects which came in above budget. All the PN can say to this is “But the MLP Bugibba project was also above budget”. Well - there’s no choice between six of one and half a dozen of the other. I’m not taking either.

A Fausto Majistral wrote:

First, the Greens will not elect any MPs come next general election. Not because they system is loaded against them but because with the kind of electoral support they have in Malta they wouldn’t elect anyone under any system. So that rules out all talk of coalitions.

Second, appeals like Daphne’s are not directed at those who genuinely believe that the Nationalists are as bad as Labour. They are stuck in the “MLPN” mode and, despite being all for the EU, risked us membership in the 2003 election either because their ego was too big or they did not want to face up the simple maths.

Third, this is Sant Mark II (qisu Ford Escort). Some people seem to have forgotten the lesson of 1996-98: this is a politician who’s ready to risk the most opportunistic policies to be voted in office. The Maltese electorate then has to pay for the consequences. The same things are happening now from the promise to slash the surcharge by 50% on assuming office (setting the Maltese exchequer by some €60 million) and creating a massive loophole in income tax with the exemption on overtime,

You’ve been warned and seen this before. If you still want to give a hand to Labour, go ahead: Enjoy Sant.

R wrote: I have always voted PN. This time l will vote AD. Here is why I won’t faint when I will fold the ballot paper with a nice ‘1’ in the AD box: PN would prefer to have MLP winning than having AD in parliament. MLP would prefer to have PN winning than having AD in parliament. That is the MLP-PN electoral agreement in layman’s terms.

Ralph wrote:

FACT 1: PN and MLP - financed by building ‘contractors’ (read: millionaires). PN in government for 18 years plus so the link is obviously more visible. When are ‘national interests’ prevailing??

FACT 2: Pressure groups: pressure groups do not contest elections. This old PN spin is simply pathetic…well what do you expect from a party which despite its full time employees copies Sarkozy’s posters practically exactly!! hehe!

FACT 3: Daphne is a mercenary. So much for her ‘independence’. Today her article was on the same subject as PN’s latest billboard put up last night. RCC at work again!

FACT 4: Nationalists cannot stand being told that their party is as corrupt as Labour’s 80s (minus the physical violence)… ask any other party activist (not from PN) about the pressures at work just because they happen not to support the current mandarins.

FACT 5: Visit http://carmelcacopardo.com … straight from the horse’s mouth.

FACT 6: The usual comment by a dyed in the wool nationalist if you criticize his/her great glorious party and supreme leader: INT LABURIST!! It’s time to go boys.

Daphne wrote in again last Thursday:

Oh, for God’s sake, grow up - the lot of you. “If I vote AD and Sant becomes prime minister, it’s Gonzi’s fault not mine.” Yes, mummy, and it was the dog that stole the biscuits, not me. NO, IT’S YOUR FAULT IF YOU ARE FACED WITH A CHOICE BETWEEN TWO MEN AS PRIME MINISTER AND YOU VOTE TACTICALLY TO ENSURE THAT SANT IS ELECTED.

If you prefer Gonzi as prime minister, vote directly for him. If you can’t tell the difference between Sant and Gonzi, then quite frankly, you either need to have your heads examined or you are so fraught with bitterness over God-knows-what that you are beyond caring. That’s the long and the short of it.

Let me throw out a wild guess: you’re all about 10 years younger than I am and if any of you have kids at all, then they’re babies or toddlers. The first factor accounts for your immature outlook on life, and the second factor accounts for your selfishness. Yes, I used to think like this - when I was 26 and my kids were in kindergarten. I even voted for AD in 1992.

Now I am 43 and have adult sons well on the way to making on their own life, and there is no way that I am going to vote for anyone other than the best of the two options for prime minister. But hey, guess what? That’s because I’m a grown-up, with other grown-ups to care about.

I just love the way you’re all so critical about everything that’s happened in Malta in the last 10 years or so. What would you have said if you were 18 in 1983, like I was - unable to go to university despite having A-levels, unable to leave the country because of the restrictions on foreign currency, unable to find anything other than a job that paid the minimum wage, unable to buy the most basic things to wear and eat, unable to go out to a nightclub without the nightclub being raided at 2am and being locked in a room and searched and prevented from calling your parents to say why you’d be late? And our every weekend was spent protesting on the streets. That’s why I say: GROW UP. I mean it.

Anton replied:

I’m 33 years now and lucky enough to remember only the late 80s. If I were 10 years older I certainly wouldn’t have been able to be a doctor or perhaps I would have had to study in a foreign medical school, like many older colleagues of mine were forced to do. All this thanks to the MLP (Malta Labour Party or Malta League of Peasants call it as you wish) and its squallid socialist rule of which Sant was a key player.

Kenneth Cassar wrote:

Isn’t Daphne the one who would wear a fur coat just to spite Peta? Daphne, YOU grow up!

By the way, I’m 37, so stop patronising us. It’s a free country, it’s a free vote.

Anton Agius added:

Geez, Daphne you’re so repetitive….. every time we are faced with an election we have to read your diatribes warning us that if we don’t note PN, Labour will benefit ….

Guess what? I don’t give a *********** about whether or not Sant is elected. And let me say this I find it rather strange that you are depicting an election as a popularity contest between Gonzi and Sant … exactly PN’s strategy ,,, but that’s an aside.

I don’t approve of what the nationalists did in these past 5 years, I was against the extension to the development zones, against the environmental mess they’ve put the country in, against seeing all the BLUE eyed boys getting all the cushy jobs. Was this administration free from corrupt practices???? hummmmm think, think, think … Anybody who votes for the Nationalists is say “I APPROVE OF WHAT THEY HAVE DONE IN THE PAST 5 YEARS” anybody body who votes for the Nationalists is giving them a carte blanche to do whatever they have done in the past 5 years.

This idea of voting PN so as not to get MLP is so pathetic, I will vote AD. I want change. I am not happy with just a change in the government. I want a change in the system and there’s only one way to get it … by voting green. Otherwise this will be a repeat of all other elections from 1992 … MORE OF THE SAME and to be honest I am sick of it.

Daphne wrote in at midnight on Saturday (yesterday) morning:

I wrote a nice long comment on lots of this, but when I clicked the button, the system failed and the comment vanished, and now I can’t be bothered to write it again because I still have my column to work on. I did post something similar under Michael Falzon letter in today’s (8th) The Times on line, so if you can be bothered, much of it is there. Just a point, Jacques: how do you imagine I’ve been used to one-way commentary for 20 years, when all my contact details are public? I’ve had some very interesting return commentary, like having my house set on fire (twice), my dogs killed, and human excrement sent through the mail. One gets used to it.

More parties is a return to the past and moving backwards, not forwards. Today’s two-party system is the result of an evolutionary process, in which myriad different parties merged or fell by the electoral wayside to eventually form the two main parties we know today. We are even returning to the past in our reference to them by the leader’s name: il-partit ta’ Sant and il-partit ta’ Gonzi, like il-partit ta’ Strickland (the one that my maternal and paternal families supported) and il-partit ta’ Boffa.

The assumption seems to prevail on this blog that a two-party system is an unnatural and primitive thing that needs to be ‘evolved’ and brought into the modern world. Well, I have news for you: it is already an evolved system. It evolved over more than a century, and this what it evolved into because a two-party system seems to be what the Maltese prefer.

I don’t know why you should find this so unacceptable, when it is good enough for the world’s original democracy with the oldest parliament, which has had virtually uninterrupted alternation of power between the Whigs and the Tories for 300 years. The United States has alternation of power between the Democrats and the Republicans, and it’s OK with them.

When I listen carefully, what I hear is not people saying that they want another party in parliament. What I hear them say is that they are unhappy with the two main parties, which is not the same thing. If those two main parties were to overhaul themselves, they would be happy with them, and AD would have no reason for existence. AD depends for its survival on the shortcomings of the ‘big’ parties, which is hardly a recipe for credibility or success.

Jon wrote: After years reading Daphne’s column this is the first time I managed to agree with both her tone and substance.

Now while all are just debating on taxes and corruption why is no one mentioning the following points:

1. The fact that the last time there was such an exodus of professionals (especially doctors) from our country was during the doctor’s strike. If the recent agreement between MAM and the Government is as fantastic as these two parties want everyone to believe this situation wouldn’t have taken a turn for the worst immediately after this agreement was signed.

2: Why is no one taking a stand against the recently opened incinerator, when across the world there is opposaition to this way of treating refuse? (it’s a proven fact that areas within a 75-100 kilometer range from incinerators are hit by a much higher rates of cancers and birth deformities…considering the Maltese islands are less than 35 kilometers from Marsaxlokk to Dwejra I’d expect this to be a rather big issue, but apparently all parties in opposition think that the only way of ruining the environment is by pulling down trees to erect buildings)

3. Why don’t we have a national long term energy policy?

4. Why do we still have some substandard courses at our University? (please spare me the usual diatribe that there were only 800 students under the MLP….I vote PN already so such stupid replies are wasted on me).

5. Also…why does everyone speak of this country as though it’s going through the lowest point in its history, conveniently forgetting that considering our history, we have the most diversified economy ever (not simply dominated by a couple of big employers), the lowest rate of unemployment ever, the highest rate of direct foreign investment ever, lowest illeteracy rate ever, etc, etc. Anyone can put these facts into question, but all she or he needs to do is go and look up the official statistics.

6. Finally, why is no one lamenting the fact that both parties are very prone to base their arguments in such a way as to woo the intellectually challenged rather than try and gain the support of those who know better.

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