Weaponising the vote

A reader has written to urge me to make a case for tactical voting for ADPD at the next general election. It’s an argument that’s been made by others and is worth listening to. Still, I remain sceptical. Even if it were workable, it would ask the impossible of ADPD.

The argument for an ADPD vote — by people who usually wouldn’t consider it — rests on two pillars. First, it assumes — correctly, I think — that there’s a significant segment of voters seriously considering abstaining at the next general election because they’re alienated from both Parties of government.

Second, it’s assumed that many of these alienated votes could be picked up by ADPD if it campaigned on two big promises: to support any Party that binds itself to be accountable, meritocratic and transparent; to withdraw support the moment those values are compromised.

In effect, that rules out any partnership with Labour, assuming we can suspend our disbelief that it would ever need ADPD’s support. Such support wouldn’t survive the first week of a Labour government that, in its present sclerosis, is trapped in its own corruption, unable to clean up its act without collapsing.

You will sometimes find a third assumption added: that the country’s current political duopoly needs to be broken. It’s not a necessary assumption in 2022. The country’s duopoly already is broken.

For the foreseeable future, we have a Labour monopoly. At this juncture, to obsess with an inexistent duopoly will risk seeing the current monopoly become permanent.

What about the straight argument for a tactical vote? Why the scepticism? Essentially, the argument demands too much either of voters or of ADPD activists and candidates.

It asks too much of voters if they’re expected to ignore ADPD’s political programme, which is well to the left of both Labour and PN.

If you’re a leftwing Labour voter who’s disenchanted with the corruption and rightwing policies of your Party’s leaders, maybe you can live with ADPD’s programme. If you’re a PN voter, however, then it’s likely that you are disenchanted with the personalities in your favoured Party but not, fundamentally, with its programme. On the contrary, you’re alienated by many of ADPD’s signature policies.

If you’re not going to vote PN because you’re alienated from its personalities or are unsure about their convictions, why vote for a Party that patently doesn’t stand for many things you’d like?

The appeal to how coalition governments work elsewhere is irrelevant. Coalition governments are made up of Parties that campaigned on a distinctive programme and attracted votes for that very programme. What’s being asked for in this case, however — remember, it’s a stratagem for voters who ordinarily wouldn’t consider voting ADPD — is a vote for a programme you don’t want.

What if ADPD commits to having a minimal political programme, other than to act as a watchdog, promising to pull out of supporting a PN government the moment it makes a suspect compromise on good governance? That is essentially to ask ADPD activists to work for a political programme that they don’t believe in. It’s unreasonable.

Only someone who doesn’t really share ADPD’s commitments and priorities would think it’s a small sacrifice to make. A PN government, fulfilling PN promises, while respecting good governance, would still be unacceptable to a committed Green, who’d think the PN promises on the environment, for example, are too little, too late. If you’re a Green, your idea of an unacceptable compromise and accountability is going to be based on criteria that just aren’t the same as those of a centrist Party like the PN.

Centrists are more prone to see compromises as virtuous; radicals are more prone to see them as rotten collusion. It’s not that one group has a conscience and the other doesn’t. They simply read the future differently and that affects how they judge the present. A Green politician elected on centrist votes could easily find herself denouncing actions her electors don’t have a fundamental problem with. Such an arrangement is unworkable. It puts honest people in a false position.

It’s one thing to vote for a third Party or independent candidate out of conviction. That’s democracy in action.

The idea of a tactical vote, however, is based on someone suspending their basic convictions and better judgement. Either you need to suspend your scepticism about ADPD’s policies or else you expect its politicians to freeze their commitments to do your bidding. It’s a recipe for disappointment. People enter politics to get things done, not to act as monitors.

If you think that, given the perilous state of the country, then significant compromises are necessary, perhaps you should consider making those compromises yourself. Swallow hard and take a second look at politicians who, while flawed and not compelling, have every incentive to uncover and fix the major corrupt arrangements that threaten to take the country down.


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D. Borg
D. Borg
2 years ago

Firstly, unfortunately, the contents of an election manifesto are quickly forgotten by the “ruling” party once the election is over – except maybe for the main battle-cry.

Secondly, a PM and his/her Cabinet will be required to make decisions on matters and circumstances than were never envisaged in the manifesto.

Thirdly, dismissing the PLPN duopoly with the scaremongering of a PL dictatorship, is respectfully pretty short-sighted, and naively dismisses the reality that no government – even if it enjoys 2/3 rds majority in parliament – can continue satisfying the demands of 2/3 rds of the population in the long-run.

Fourthly, having a PM leading a single party in government and his/her stalwarts, willingly clutching to power on the strength of the funds being “invested” in corrupt politicians/”persons of trust” & their inefficient party propaganda machines, by commercial/wealth interests of assorted tycoons (existent & upcoming) – who demand far more than their pound of flesh – runs roughshod on any theoretical political ideology whether Left,  Right or Central.

Fifthly, the PN are far from immune to arrogance, corruption and clientelism – albeit to date never matching Labour’s shameless excesses – thus having a no strings attached coalition party – may assist any PM of goodwill to stick to the right path and dismiss the unholy pressure from own party stalwarts & “donors”. Simon Busuttil had intimated this in reference to Marlene & Godfrey Farrugia.

Any righteous voter should be hoping that the current Labour crop headed by, the ex-Consultant of and Continuity Candidate anointed by, the disgraced Dr. Muscat be voted out (and Labour commencing a Spring cleaning), and the less worse PN be elected to Office with adequate safeguards to ensure that all the changes in the recently proposed Anti-Corruption Bills be faithfully enacted and more importantly effectively implemented and maintained by the “independent national institutions” who pursue to national interest rather than that of the party in office. Such safeguard would be having a PN lead government relying on ADPD parliamentary seats.

So finally in so far as voting is concerned:

–         Refraining from voting is at best, electing to make oneself irrelevant and incapable of making any choice, and at worse egoistically sending a “message” for an unentertained undeserved request/demand.

–         Block-voting PN will only get Labour kicked out, if the PN secures a majority of 1st count votes, and then we will be at the mercy of the donors who are/will be bankrolling the presently bankrupt PN.

–         Giving 1st preference vote to the PN and then 2nd preference to ADPD, and cross voting back on the few PN candidates deemed somewhat responsible & honest enough, and/or concentrate ADPD 1st preference votes in one district (say the 10th), would increase the chances of having 3 parties elected, and thus Labour would need to garner an absolute majority of seats to remain in Office, whilst any potential PN government may be guided by an ADPD conscience to steer a PN lead Cabinet away from corruption, arrogance, and party “donors” unholy influence.   

In essence it is not political ideology that will be affecting our and our children’s quality of life going forward, but the extent that successive governments operate within effective checks and balances, that promote and reward honest politicians striving for the common good, rather than the endemically corrupt political status quo, we’ve been cursed ourselves with.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
2 years ago

For heaven’s sake the NP has a rising star in Europe. I am referring to Roberta Metzola. Give what you can to the NP now for her sake. Invest in her. She could be the solution of our country. She could be the one that can lead us out of this mess. Labour can’t do it. They can only make it worse. The PN has many valid candidates and they deserve our support. It is time to make the PN stronger not weaker.

Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
2 years ago

Ranier is too pessimistic about the reasoning of ADPD activist. Because of our ridiculous district electoral system, their choice is to be sidelined completely or getting some (minor) part of their program implemented. In addition they are no longer without a voice but can present reasonable proposals in parliament and establish a record of performance. And while a coalition with the PRESENT PL seems impossible, that might change before too long.
Finding reasons why it is unlikely to work is no justification for not giving it a try and giving up on necessary change. If we don’t try nothing will change for sure. Let’s not be defeatist. The beauty of the proposal is that the voter has nothing to loose. His vote will not be wasted.

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