As speculation about a possible November election intensifies, the dilemma of those who don’t want to vote PL or PN becomes more and more pressing. A few days ago, we were treated to yet another political survey, showing that the PN continues to trail miserably behind the PL, and Opposition Leader Bernard Grech is an even lamer duck than his predecessor was.
While the gap between the parties appears narrower than that emerging from The Times’ survey in July – which showed the PL leading by 50,000 votes – and Malta Today’s in the same month – which saw Labour ahead by 40,000 – the survey published by the Malta Today two days ago still reported a massive lead of 33,400 votes for the PL.
This doesn’t surprise me. The last few years have made it clear that the majority of Maltese voters have abandoned any principles and values they may once have had, and are happy to be represented by a corrupt and murderous government.
Anyone who would vote for PL now, with all we know about its involvement in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, its brazen corruption, cronyism, phantom jobs for ministers’ chums and their usurpation of State funds to bribe their electoral district constituents to vote for them next time, has to be dishonest and ill-intentioned.
There can’t be a single adult left on the island who isn’t aware of the shocking scale of this government’s malfeasance. Yet they still, in their many thousands, choose the incumbent crooks.
However, those few remaining Maltese voters who truly value integrity and have at least some concept of what honour means, are now political orphans. They can’t, and won’t, vote for the PN as it’s currently composed, either.
You can’t turn away in horror from what the PL is doing and instead embrace a political party that’s stuffed to the gills with shady characters, many of whom are hiding secrets as damning as some of their counterparts on the government benches.
Bernard Grech was manoeuvred into place in an exercise that seems more distasteful by the day. The ousting of his predecessor, Adrian Delia, was a long-overdue event, but the revelations about Grech’s own shortcomings just before his election put paid to any sense of relief.
And, indeed, they should have put paid to any idea of him leading the PN too. The surveys keep driving this point hard, yet for some reason, the PN is failing to listen. Malta Today’s survey found that only 29.5% of all respondents said they trust Grech, while almost 27% of those who voted PN in 2017 do not trust him.
Almost a third of the PN’s voters don’t trust the Party Leader. Talk about frying pans and fire.
The PN appears to have a death wish. The arrogance it was accused of pre-2013 is apparently so deeply ingrained that it simply can’t see the damage it’s doing to itself. But for those of us who wouldn’t vote PL if we were tied to a burning stake and roasted alive, what alternative is there?
Do we really have to hold our noses and vote to make prime minister a man who failed to pay his taxes for most of his working life? Or to put in power those who went cap in hand to sleazy businessmen renowned to be keen to have an MP or two under obligation to them?
Because, whatever the mindless rabble of die-hard supporters may say, this type of businessman always calls in the debt. Perhaps not immediately, perhaps not overtly. But eventually, every piper has to be paid. And when the debtor is a PL or PN minister, it’s the taxpayer who’ll be doing the paying.
So, no, for anyone who wants rid of the foetid PL swamp because they abhor corruption and dishonesty, the PN as it’s currently constituted is no solution. There are too many tainted characters, too many sordid secrets.
At the moment, and with the prevailing scaremongering about third parties being wasted votes, there’s very little choice. The squeezed few, those who think we deserve better than either of the Parties can offer, are withdrawing altogether.
According to Malta Today’s survey, 12.4% of voters say they wouldn’t vote if an election was held tomorrow, while 9.9% replied they don’t know which way they’d vote. Together, that’s over a fifth of voters that have either given up or are battling with a compromise. Or, in some cases, they’re simply afraid to admit their true preference to the survey caller.
So, while that percentage may be higher than the number who actually don’t plan to vote at all, for Malta, it’s still a significant number. Voter turnout in 2017 was 92%, and in 2013 it was 93%. In 2008, it was 93%; in 2003, it was 97%. In 1998, it was 95%, and so on, all the way back to the earliest days of our independent nation.
Yet, quite apart from what newspaper surveys may tell us, from conversations with friends and acquaintances, it’s clear that the disillusionment and sense of hopelessness are growing fast.
It’s well past time for a change. The two-party system has been glaringly inadequate for Malta for a long time. The two main Parties simply toss power between them, 10 years here, 15 years there, like a football in an even slower than usual game.
The arrogance people complained of in the PN pre-2013, and in the PL since 2013, the complacency, the smugness: these are a direct result of the absence of any other alternatives for the electorate to choose from. And this suits the two main Parties right down to the ground, of course. Indeed, they perpetuate it deliberately by scaremongering about the perils of voting for any third or fourth party that might emerge.
This attitude is effectively holding voters to ransom: elect us or you unleash Armageddon.
The vast majority of European countries have three or more political parties represented in their parliaments. Malta’s failure to allow more voices, more viewpoints and more ideas into its political arena is a symptom of the puerility of the Maltese political system, the lack of understanding of the importance of diversity and choice among the majority of voters.
Things could be different, but only if we have the imagination to make them different.