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19 April 2014

Reflections On a surreal election

 - Sunday, 14 June 2009, 00:00 , by Josanne Cassar

Watching the aftermath of the MEP election results, it felt like I was watching last year’s fallout from the general election, except everything was in reverse.

Instead of Alfred Sant’s grim unyielding face, we had Lawrence Gonzi’s.

Instead of the outspoken Anna Mallia telling the Labour Party that it had conducted its campaign all wrong, we had the equally blunt Georg Sapiano, who ruthlessly brought a Net TV discussion screeching to a halt: “What do you mean three seats is not much of a victory? Viewers at home must think you are mad.”

Instead of Jason Micallef with his dazzling salesman smile saying too much and doing more harm than good, we had the insipid Paul Borg Olivier, saying nothing much at all and doing more harm than good.

And instead of a Lou Bondì demanding answers from Labour politicians to explain how they could have lost the election, it was Lou Bondì turning his guns on Simon Busuttil.

What a difference a year makes.

Gonzi today, like Sant before him, is besieged by enemies from within.

Last year, the Labour Party was in shambles as the long knives came out and officials fell over themselves trying to find a scapegoat for the defeat.

Today, a mere 15 months after his victory, Gonzi is facing mutiny and vicious backstabbing.

And I can’t help but think that there’s a bit of karma at work here. The same water and electricity bills, which were partly responsible for Alfred Sant’s downfall in 1998 (helped by a great push from Dom Mintoff), are also the main cause of Gonzi’s downward spiral. Will any Prime Minister ever dare touch utility bills again?

Stop talking

He started off reasonably calm, and was clearly trying not to flash the famous smile, but Jason Micallef just could not control himself on Bondiplus and ended up yapping more than he should.

Maybe someone should relegate him to observer status.

The comeback kid

Was John Attard Montaldo or, as he is affectionately known, JAM, born under a lucky star or what? To be trailing behind until the 25th count and then coolly inherit over 9,000 votes from Claudette Abela Baldacchino to land smack at number three, was one of those the-underdog-wins-the-day scenarios you only see in a Hollywood film.

Except in Los Angeles, they wouldn’t still be counting 248,169 votes three days later.

Seeing red

All that bouncing flesh barely held together by tight boob tubes and leggings was a disconcerting sight for floating voters. The street party by Labour supporters with its sea of red, and its Torca flags, sent a shiver down quite a few spines, aided by Net TV and the timesonline.com cameras which gleefully swooped down and zoomed in on the most unattractive of the lot. Joseph Muscat is facing a dilemma here – he can either put a stop to these kind of mass celebrations completely or, alternatively, he can ban the colour red, enforce a strict dress code and order everyone to go on a strict diet before they do their jiggle on TV.

(Of course, PN revellers urinating on people’s front doorsteps in St Julian’s last year were OK because they were, you know, wearing blue).

Reaping what you sow

Before each election, it has become the habit of the PN government to promise the earth, the moon and the stars to anyone who wants them, in return for a vote.

Then, when people whine and protest by not voting, because they have not received what they were promised (hence “jiena mugugh” – “I’m very hurt”) the party is astonished at people’s cheek and calls it blackmail.

It has been widely acknowledged that the PN won last year’s general election using a strategy of cold, calculated cynicism (we had this admission from Joe Saliba himself). So Gonzi should not be too surprised that the electorate has responded in kind.

I’m sorry guys, but you can’t have it both ways. If you encourage patronage, back-scratching and the culture of pjaciri (favours, you have no one to blame but yourselves when it all comes back to bite you in the backside.

We do need an education

Do they teach children at school how the electoral system works in Malta? Do they know what the meaning of the Single Transferable Vote is?

My suspicion is that the answer to both questions is “No”. I admit I only learned how it all works during one of my university credits. However, it is clear that many adults still don’t have a clue how the whole thing works. I met people who did not know you could cross party vote (“but the vote will be invalid!”) or that you could give your preferences to just a few candidates and stop there (“does that count as a vote?”) or heck, that you could just give your preference to your number one candidate and waltz on home.

As for all this business of voting alphabetically down the list, are people really that indifferent to choosing the best candidates, just as long as they belong to “their” party? Why am I even asking this question? Just ask Marlene Mizzi.

Seriously, someone needs to organise some easy to understand civic lessons, perhaps in local council offices, to explain how the “inherited” vote system works, and how you can influence who gets chosen from every party, and how you can make your vote count in more ways than one.

Thanks a lot, Simon

Simon Busuttil can go to sleep happy in the knowledge that so many voters made him their number one hero, but it’s poor consolation for the rest of the PN candidates who must be seething with fury at being knocked out of the race because they did not inherit his votes.

The 4-2 result is understandably galling for the PN who love to claim ownership of EU membership. But, as someone pointed out, it is the people who voted themselves into the EU, so this arrogant assumption that there should be “gratitude voting” should really stop.

New Labour?

It is clear that Labour’s victory can be attributed to the fact that it shrewdly fielded candidates such Edward Scicluna and Marlene Mizzi, along with the incumbents Louis Grech and John Attard Montaldo, who are more “acceptable” to traditional PN voters. One must not overlook the fact, however, that newcomers Scicluna and Mizzi were also greatly welcomed by the kind of Labour supporters who never go to mass meetings and who never go around beeping their horns in carcades. Whenever someone expresses amazement that Labour continues to garner half the country’s votes, I always point out that someone must be voting for them other than the working class stereotypes that are such easy targets for derision.

Those who didn’t bother

The comments I keep hearing from both sides of the political divide seem more concerned with “winning votes” than with offering the type of government that will get things done in this country without fear or favour. Is it any wonder therefore that there is this complete disenchantment with politics and politicians?

I think 21 per cent of voters refusing to vote is a good thing. More power to them. It shows that people are not going to be bullied, cajoled or blackmailed into doing what they don’t want to do. Give me a concrete reason to vote for you, they are saying, and stop treating me like a moron.

By the way, Dear Mr Political Party With All Our Personal Details In Your Data Base, if someone does not want to vote, you should leave him/her alone. When you track down someone’s mobile number and pester him to pick up his vote or “remind” him to go and vote on the day, it is not only harassment and an invasion of privacy, it just doesn’t work. It simply makes the non-voter dig in his heels even more. He will also be directing a few choice expletives in your direction.

Those who switched

As confirmed by Labour’s Michael Falzon on Dissett, the number of floating voters is also growing, which is another positive sign. People are effectively saying to the political parties “don’t take me for granted”.

When Labour supporters switched sides they were given a toothy grin and “welcomed” (they also innocently thought this meant they belonged – I am touched by such naivety).

What’s different this time, of course, is the swing from Nationalist to Labour, which is effectively destroying life as we know it. Naturally, these traitors will be given their due punishment. No more cocktail parties or invitations to join us on our boat for you, and by the way, old chap, you can forget that standing arrangement we have for a game of tennis every Sunday at “the Marsa”.

Right, I hope I have made myself clear.

Please don’t go

Despite the disappointing result, I sincerely hope that this is not the death knell for Alternattiva Demokratika. I may be an incurable optimist who likes to see the glass half full, but I still believe there is a need for a third party, and specifically a Green party in Malta.

In all, there were over 7,500 people who voted for Arnold Cassola, who ranked as the 10th candidate overall, hanging on till the 22nd count, long after candidates from the big parties had been eliminated. That must mean something, not least to those who believed enough in AD to vote for Cassola to represent them in the EU.

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