The Malta Independent 15 April 2021, Thursday

To claim that ‘A vote for AD is a vote for Labour’ is an act of bullying

Colette Sciberras Sunday, 21 May 2017, 08:29 Last update: about 5 years ago

Imagine this scenario: a bully picks on a boy and tells him that if he does not join her in violent acts against gay kids, then he must be gay himself. The boy is forced to make a choice – being violent or being called gay, neither of which he wants. Of course, there are other choices; he could tell an adult, or refuse to play along. However, the bully tries to pretend that no other options exist, that there is no difference between not being violent towards gays and being gay in order to force a choice on her victim.

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AD supporters are often bullied this way. They are told that if they do not vote PN then they will be voting for PL. The possibility of a third option – to vote Green – is negated and voters’ wishes and intentions – again, to vote Green – are ignored altogether.

It is a familiar argument: Party X, we are told, is the embodiment of evil, and therefore we all need to support Party Y against this abomination. A coalition between AD and PN was attempted based on such a premise, but now that negotiations have failed so spectacularly, AD and its supporters are being blamed for the PL’s likely return to power.

The coalition never happened because they could not agree on a name and so AD and their supporters are also accused of being ‘proud’, because it is thought that they are putting their party before the country. Why this argument should apply to AD but not to PN is beyond me; after all, AD can at least be proud of its clean record, and there is no obvious reason why the PN should lead a coalition against corruption.

AD proposed a new name for the coalition, one that promoted no single party, but PN refused to give up theirs. I can’t believe they were worried voters would not find their names on the ballot paper, so to me it is clear that PN never had any intention of being in a coalition as equals. Yet if AD votes are so essential for the coalition to win, a little humility and openness to change would not have gone amiss. At the very least, the PN might have accepted AD’s deal merely for the sake of not appearing massively arrogant, which is what lost them the election in 2013.

In any case, given that the coalition talks failed, and we have the option of voting for several smaller parties, including AD, why should we accept that “A vote for AD is a vote for Labour?” Voting strategies and numbers play an important role in the argument. Suppose Labour wins by a slightly smaller majority than the total number of votes won by PN and AD? Are those people who voted for AD to blame because if they had all voted PN, ‘we’ would have won against the ‘terrible evil’ of PL?

Of course, it is obvious they are not, as in principle everyone has the right to vote for whomever they like. People who make such arguments, however, seldom think about principles and are more likely to think in terms of strategies and instrumental goods, in a word, measures. ‘We should do whatever it takes to oust that evil’ they will often claim.

Even by this standard however, it is not the voters that are to blame. Based on this very argument, the PN should have done whatever it took to attract AD votes. If people still choose to vote AD, it may simply be that the little bags of goodies that were tossed around by both major parties were of no interest to them. Perhaps they see different evils from the ones pointed out by your party. If you must blame someone, blame your party for being unable to attract their votes, for not knowing what to offer them, and being unable to sway them with reason or pledges.

I imagine someone might vote AD rather than PN because they are dissatisfied with the PN’s approach to the environment. This may not even be because of past ‘mistakes’ but simply because they are unimpressed with the latest policy or with the Tony Bezzina debacle. Alternatively, perhaps they were sold on AD’s pledges on traffic, a velodrome and so on.

In any case, whatever one’s reasons for voting AD, one is entitled to do so. Nobody should tolerate his or her vote being discounted as a vote for someone else. After all, suppose someone tried to reduce our views to the same kind of duality? Imagine someone were to say to us “To vote PN is to vote for the “Same SH*T different government” – i.e., what some people like to call “PNPL”. To those of us who see a distinction between PN and PL, this hardly seems fair, does it.

For the same reason, it is not fair to blame AD supporters for seeing a difference where others might see none. Those who do not vote for our party, whichever it is, are not all the same, and if our party is losing votes to AD, we should question our party’s approach rather than bullying AD supporters. 

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