The Malta Independent 14 November 2019, Thursday

A roadmap to an Opposition reborn

Timothy Alden Sunday, 20 October 2019, 09:37 Last update: about 25 days ago

Two years after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, civil society is stronger than ever, but the political Opposition has never been weaker or more lacking in purpose, direction and vision. There is a pressing need for activists and third-party forces to consolidate politically and present a united front against those who are propping up an outdated and self-destructive political system. What, then, does Malta need from an Opposition reborn?

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Jacques René Zammit, a Luxembourg-based Maltese lawyer who maintains the blog J'accuse, maintains that the Nationalist Party’s pitfall is its failure to find a higher cause, such as that of trying to fix Malta’s broken political system. He writes that in Malta’s two-party system, there is never a motivation to excel, only to be less terrible than the other major party in Parliament, leading to a “race to mediocrity”.

I am in agreement with him that political parties who depend on the current broken system, fed by cronyism and the abuse of public institutions are, by definition, against the public interest. To quote him: these parties ‘become intellectually lazy’ and operate in a ‘vacuum of value. Meaningless drivel replaces debate and this is endorsed by the party faithful with a superficial nod towards ‘issues’.”

The disdain in which the two major parties hold most of the ‘issues’ of the day is clear to see when one considers their lack of consistency regarding them, coupled with hollow, pre-election, promises. Over the past couple of years, the flip-flopping of the Nationalist Party on most major causes has given the impression that the current leadership stands for nothing at all. The attempts to start speaking about corruption and championing Daphne Caruana Galizia are surely only political responses to an electoral beating, and do not reflect deeper values.

On the other hand, I can appreciate that if one votes for the Labour Party, one knows exactly what one is getting. The Labour Party is honest about its dishonesty. The government does not take us for fools, even when its spokesmen lie to our faces. The lying is part of a grand pantomime, but it is not actually intended to convince. People know what is really going on, whether they support the government or not. If one votes for the government, one is supporting a ‘business first’ mentality and the drive to make money at all costs.

This is a very different scenario to the one playing out in the Nationalist Party, where the Blues still attempt to play holier than thou, while borrowing from the same dirty rule book as the Labour Party. Their lack of consistency on environmental issues and corruption, for example, gives the impression that they will say or do anything for power – power for its own sake – without representing any sort of grand vision or cause. Forza Nazzjonali was a clear attempt to overcome the ‘race to mediocrity’, and shows that even major parties can be a part of the solution. Yet, today’s Nationalists are a part of the problem.

This takes us back to the need for an Opposition which is reborn. It requires those who truly have the environment and good governance at heart to come together from across civil society and third-party politics to create a fresh political movement. There is no need for old identities to be lost in this mix. Yet when even third parties have fragmented, then the country really is heading towards an authoritarian one-party state, without any sort of checks and balances.

A united Opposition is not desirable if it revolves around a corrupt locus. The fish rots at the head, and thus what is needed is not a strong Nationalist Party, but a strong alternative to both it and the Labour Party, setting aside tribal differences and putting the country first.

Those within the Nationalist Party who cling on to the concept of good governance are fundamentally betraying those values and are fooling their supporters the longer they sit around twiddling their thumbs. Daphne Caruana Galizia would not have been gentle writing about any Nationalists who pay lip service to Adrian Delia, while reassuring their supporters that they secretly oppose him. Such resistance, if not out in the open and honest, is useless.

Malta needs an Opposition force which acknowledges the broken system for what it is, and does not exist by virtue of it. Neither the Nationalist nor the Labour Parties would be able to soldier on as they do now without all their backroom relationships with shady businessmen, and their moral flexibility on the ‘issues’. We need honest politics – though this sounds like an oxymoron. Only then can the Opposition have the guiding vision strong enough to rally the people.

 

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