The Malta Independent 6 December 2023, Wednesday
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Levelling up Maltese politics

Mark Said Sunday, 24 September 2023, 08:40 Last update: about 3 months ago

What is the first thing that flashes through your mind when you encounter the word "politics"? The complexity of the word can be predominantly expressed when you think about the moment when anyone asks you to define it. So it is better not to muddle our noses in geopolitics for the time being. And let us examine the political games, the political opinions, the perspective of people towards politicians, and what lies ahead for us to mend the broken system.


The damage is already done. And now is the time to restore it. Do you know how? Because we have youth power. We need to ensure the purpose of the political system, which should thereby be implemented. Politics is not dirty; politicians are. The morality of our politicians has degraded over the years to such a level that the word "politician" itself is seen as a negative remark, as something unacceptable. And it is the pretext for all the self-declared good people to stay away from dirty politics.

Over the last few years, the creed of politicians has multiplied more than the population growth rate. These politicians have not only spoiled the governing process but also percolated into different life streams. This is the reason why every problem in Malta can be traced to the political nexus, be it corruption, illegal trade, price rises, social and economic problems or poverty, and, thus, the list is unending.

After the 2022 elections, our main political parties held leadership successions to carry out the regeneration function and improve the performance of their political machines. Nevertheless, the results of their leadership succession do not indicate an effective process of leadership regeneration. This ineffectiveness is indicated by the dominance of old names who returned to the helm of the national political parties. That political reality, for example, suggests that the internal dynamics of a political party such as the PN tend to want the status quo to be maintained. For instance, there is some stagnant condition where the space for change and regeneration does not gain adequate attention in the succession process of political party leadership. This means that the old power structure has a strong grip and easily maintains dominance in the political party leadership command structure.

Several factors contribute to the inexorability of the status quo. First is the magnitude of patron-client dominance in political parties. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with the phenomenon of patron-client. Because, even in traditional to modern party institutions, patron-client has always been a political reality that always has a very open space to grow and develop. Various classic cases show that the formation of patron-client relationship patterns is caused by multiple factors, ranging from leadership history, resource and logistics distribution, the authority and charisma of leaders, breeds or heredity, to the high capacity of religious knowledge and the legitimacy of local customs, which are all the basis for creating public trust towards leaders. When there is no alternative power that can compensate for the existing leadership, there is a centralised role in every decision-making process in political parties.

Political parties tend to cling to their status quo, so they neglect their courage to take risks, speculate and innovate to create new platforms for alternative leaders. So the spirit of change and transformation of generations in the party structure is quite limited. Such psychological conditions suffered by political parties have the potential to hamper their institutional development. Thus, the command model, political strategy, regeneration patterns and inter-agency communication approaches will tend to stagnate. In this sense, political parties will tend to cling to conservative methods to maintain their loyal voter bases without being able to expand their captive market.

Politics in Malta is facing challenges from the political behaviour of voters, who tend to be fed up and reluctant with the stock of old faces that dominate national politics. The popularity and electability aspects are the basic assets that are not easily engineered. Many political figures and the leaders of our political parties invest in resources and logistics to "desperately" manipulate public opinion to increase their popularity and electability. But voters’ political behaviour tends to develop naturally. Door-to-door canvassing and digital campaign operations do not guarantee they can change, nor will they manipulate the public's political orientation and preferences.

Admittedly, the Labour Movement, under the helm of Robert Abela, named one of the most eclectic cabinets in the country's history, one that included a good number of women and broke with the practice of distributing ministerial appointments based on factional strength in the governing Labour Party. Yet, that is too little and too late in the day. We need a new brand of politics that can build a Malta that is attractive to business, looks after its vulnerable and marginalised, and respects its older citizensa country that is a great place to work and raise a family. But how can we get there? Politics can only get us there by uniting people and building prosperity. We need honest politics about the challenges we all face while at the same time brimming over with ideas to make government work better. The central question, therefore, will always remain: who has the ideas and the track record? Who is best placed to unite people and build prosperity?

In an article by PN activist Dr Malcolm Mifsud, some three years ago, he solicited that politics be boring again. He had expressed himself in reaction to the culmination of years of twists and turns in political drama. He had lamented how fragile and vulnerable our political system had become. But with all due respect, dear colleague, no, we do not need boring politics. Rather, we are in need of politics that revitalises our country to such an extent that it will, once again, find its rightful place on the world map.

We are in urgent need of reinventing politics, coming up with fresh, new and innovative ideas to ensure that what it represents can be seen as breathing new life into people’s hopes and aspirations.


Dr Mark Said is a lawyer

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