The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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Who’s the victor?

Victor Calleja Sunday, 16 June 2024, 07:55 Last update: about 1 month ago

In Malta, why is anything connected to elections a bit of a farce?

Analysing the latest electoral exercise, the selection by the people of the six MEPs to represent us in Brussels feels a bit surreal.

Labour, according to the diehards, has won. Even the non-diehards find it difficult to say they have lost. Yet bleed they did – haemorrhage actually – at the polls. The votes they garnered were more than their rival party the PN. Yet whereas up to Saturday they could look back smugly at their victories by landslide proportions, the majority by which they surpassed the PN has dwindled and does not look daunting and insurmountable.

And notwithstanding their victory in number of votes, the Labour Party has lost its seat majority. Previously, they had four seats in the EU, now they have three. PN have actually managed to reduce the gap to the extent of adding a seat.

Labour has shed votes and PN came close to them in the final tally. But eight thousand votes are – though a huge reduction from the majorities Labour are used to win by – still a substantial amount. Until Labour and Joseph Muscat won hugely in 2013, all local elections were usually won by less than that 8,000-vote difference. Both parties didn’t triumph.

Arnold Cassola did exceptionally well but didn’t win a seat. ADPD fared abysmally. Some of the other independents, especially Conrad Borg Manche and the comedian James Ryder Muscat had a good showing. The rest of the assorted independent cranks, except maybe for far-right Norman Lowell, hardly registered a blip in the voting outcome. Their much heralded surge failed to materialise. Mere losers.

The voters who stayed at home or didn’t even bother to collect their vote are total losers. In a democracy the right to vote is sacrosanct, so what happens to democracy or any election if everyone decides to stay at home?

The national broadcaster was even worse than a loser. It was a bad loser, a true Labour adjunct, because, while most of the country was debating the Labour haemorrhage of votes, the powers in that institution saw fit to merely report that the Labour Party had won. Won what?

Who were the other losers? The pollsters, including the smug Vincent Marmara, have lost all credibility and reliability. The three main opinion pollsters, who were all predicting a solid victory by Labour, were left with plenty of egg on their face. They subsequently blamed this on the undecided voters. But aren’t all polls faced with the phenomenon of substantial numbers of undecided voters? Basically, by fielding this excuse, they’re merely saying that the true outcome can only be known once votes are counted. Genius losers.

Faced with this sorry state of affairs, the deduction could be that there were no winners. Alex Agius Saliba for Labour, however, can pride himself on having obtained a massive number of votes. Daniel Attard and Thomas Bajada, also PL and both total newcomers, garnered a good number of votes. For the PN, Peter Agius had a good showing. David Casa won a fifth term so that’s quite impressive. Mini victors.

All these were victories of little importance: because a truly significant victory should embody a sea change, a probable or possible transformation of the status quo.

This is where Roberta Metsola comes in. Hers was a victory that caused a huge change in the Maltese political landscape.

Metsola won a stellar victory. She had a well-organised campaign. And, most importantly, her victory has instilled a feeling of hope. Hope is the victor.

Metsola has ignited a feeling that Malta can come out of the abyss. That the Labour Party which seemed so unbeatable, so positive, so constantly victorious, might not be so after all. Everyone seemed cowed by the behemoth of Labour, this juggernaut of a political force.

The Labour leaders who felt smug, arrogant and assured of victory are, for a change, feeling the heat, feeling that they can be toppled, that power and impunity do not necessarily last forever.

This election proved that the people can be galvanised to feel that Malta deserves better, that Malta needs a new chapter, that Malta has to once again become a truly functioning democracy. The Labour Party has lost the way, embraced and endorsed all that is anti-democratic. It is salutary, and good for Malta and the political class that this victory for hope has happened.

After this turn to hope, to the victory of hope, the PN and anyone in politics in Malta who wants a real change, must sit back and think positively for the future.

The PN, if they are to move forward, and if they want to make something out of this victory of hope, must rebuild, must regain their lost energy.

They must once again discover their reason for existing, decide on the right ethos. They need to change their name, branding, flag, anthem, slogan, and all their old musty ways. They need to find a way to embrace a new agenda and fling themselves into the 21st century.

The PN must capitalise on the fervour the result of the MEP elections has created all over the island. They must ensure that the enthusiasm generated by Roberta Metsola and her ways is transferred to the party and to all those who once believed in it.

In a working democracy there has to always be hope, hope that one day the incumbent party can lose at the general election.

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