The Malta Independent 18 January 2019, Friday

Non-stop hoopla

Andrew Azzopardi Wednesday, 25 April 2018, 10:42 Last update: about 10 months ago

The one thing that Maltese people do not stop talking about is politics.

Many do not stop criticising the political class yet feel that these people are 'needed' in 'the smooth running of their life'!  In fact, an estimated 90% of those eligible to vote participate in the general election.  This is further compounded by the recent Euro Barometer survey that found that 63% believe that having connections is what takes 'you' forward.  I'm not surprised, my guesstimate, if someone would have asked me that question, would have been much higher than the 63% quoted in this survey.  


Accordingly, some reflections come to mind about the political class;

Firstly, no offense, but what is the quality of the politicians we are attracting to the fold?  The current political class, albeit not all, are so weedy compared to the attributes of politicians that endowed Parliament and the political parties in the 80s.  Naturally, not all of them, at the time, made us proud and in fact some behaved despicably.  However, we still had so many politicians on both sides of the political spectrum that were committed to the 'cause', that stood up for the principles they believed in, that loved their country and were ready to give it all for the common good. 

There is also another question we need to ask; why is it that our political parties are in such a financial jumble? I believe that the political parties are more (or solely) focused on making financial ends meet rather than producing politics or raising a new cluster of politicians or coming up with innovative and futuristic ideas.  I think the media is milking them dry.  They are keen on making profits or at least having enough to pay for the exorbitant bills that come mainly from their top heavy staffing and media house expenses, especially the newsroom and TV productions, which are largely focused on non-stop whoopla, rather than investing current affairs.  Oh and by the way they recruit a set of reporters, most of which, do not have a mind of their own and simply regurgitate what their masters want from them - if not, they might be asked to buzz off. 

Missing in action as well are the schools of political thought.  AZAD and the parallel Fondazzjoni Ideat seem to have disappeared in thin air.  I know that a couple of people are trying their best to give life to these respective entities but are finding it appallingly difficult to get going as they are no longer a priority for the party.  The impression I get is that political parties are not interested in developing politics with the grassroots, but want to make us believe that they have the answers to the political mumbo-jumbo they want us to grow in.

So, 'what do political parties stand for?'

Nowadays, the two main parties are all for everyone.  Nothing distinguishes one from the other anymore.  Whilst I understand that the hard-line political ideologies are a thing of the past, we have gone to the extreme and the alternative is that all of the 'creed' has shifted to 'nothingness'.  The parties have now dislodged into a show-case for their leaders.  Political parties seem to center around il-kap or il-mexxej.  It is no longer about the party or the philosophy, the belief-system, the ideals or values but simply an issue of adulating the leaders.

And that is why I ask, but 'where have the values and ethics gone in our political discourse?'

Well, here comes....

In the 'blue corner' we have an Opposition Leader who is a very good communicator, well-articulated lawyer and very nippy and crispy.  However, he is also the one who has not paid taxes without a care in the world and like a champ announces that he has settled his dues, years in delay, as if it is OK not to keep commitments with the State (he who is a potential PM).  In the 'red corner', we have the Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party who knows that two of his closest aides are responsible for unethical behaviour (might even be proved to be criminal at the end of the investigations) and yet he chooses to keep these two co-workers close to his bosom.  In spite of that, there is no doubt that the country is doing well. We live in a healthy economy, our social policy is thriving and there are indications that wealth is starting to seep down to the grassroots, even if not quick enough.  Civil rights have never been addressed so scrupulously. 

Nonetheless, this is not the first time we have seen members of Parliament and the Cabinet who were simply fine with the faux pas they were responsible for (walled by their leaders, ma tafx inti habba d-distretti hux).   

On the other hand, what type of electorate do we have? 

We have citizens who are simply not interested in their country but in their 'take-home' and their interests.  There is hardly any sense of social responsibility and collegiality anymore.  The mentality that has crept in this Country is that if the economy is doing fine and I'm good, 'who cares'

Another important feature when discussing political parties is their funding.  How are our political parties funded? This is an issue that Dr Franco Debono has spoken endlessly about.  It is a known secret that whoever gives money, especially the big money, wants something in return, now or later - no one convinces me otherwise.  People don't just throw money at a political party for their dedication.  Some hard liners would do that but definitely far and few between. 

I believe that our political parties are in a conundrum, too busy trying to make themselves relevant but still failing to focus on their agenda, that of listening to the people and developing politics that respond to the needs of the community. 

The situation is frantic because we need healthy, well-oiled party institutions to nourish our Parliament, the highest institution of this Country.  Unless we are going to invest in turning things around the future seems bleak and dreary. 

Prof. Andrew Azzopardi is Dean, Faculty for Social Wellbeing at the University of Malta. He is also a broadcaster of Ghandi xi Nghid

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