A weaponless revolution

Former Italian PM Matteo Renzi was in the news this week thanks to the flagging of transfers of over €1 million into his account from Saudi Arabia. The Guardia di Finanza were alerted by the money laundering unit of Bankitalia and are now into their second investigation of Renzi (a first into receipt of funds from Abu Dhabi was withdrawn).

Also this week, (Private Eye editor) Ian Hislop testified before the UK Parliament’s Standards Committee discussing the very notion of representatives and the income they come by thanks to their political position. Hislop spelt out the obvious to the members present, stating that politicians should be giving account for every time they are appointed onto boards, given consultancies, or receive gifts/donations for no other reason than the position they occupy.

Whether it is Renzi or a member of the UK parliament or disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, the measure should always be the same: business relationships that are purely a result of political position must be declared and justified. An example was given to the Standards Committee of an MP accepting the gift of World Cup semi-final tickets from a well-known brewery brand.

The question should always be: Why? What will the firm get out of the gift/consultancy? What added value is the politician promising? It should be obvious that the underlying concern is trading in influence – and the test would be: would the gift/consultancy exist had the recipient/consultant not occupied a position of influence?

In our little corner of the world, it has become evident that our particular caste of politicians is made up of nothing more than careerists who use their political positions for their personal economic advantage. This is not restricted to the members of the executive or parliament but also to an extended network of crucial support. Still, it is not only about the pillage of public funds and unmerited appointments. There is nothing new under that sun.

We have seen an increase in government propaganda concerning the financial measures that are supposed to mitigate the effects of the pandemic (and sometimes we also get a fleeting reference to the imminent dangers of inflation). The €70 million worth of handouts is touted as the answer to both the pandemic damage and rising costs.

Notwithstanding the fact that more public money is channelled to the close network in the establishment (read friends and friends of friends), the polls still spell a mind-blowing win for the incumbent in the next election. And it is time to start that kind of talk – the vote kind.

Fellow columnist Ranier Fsadni had some advice for a reader who asked him about tactical voting for ADPD come next election. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find that Ranier practically recycled the good old ‘wasted vote’ theories that resurface with clockwork precision on the eve of every election.

This time, though, the flawed logic of those who argue away a vote outside the PLPN duopoly is much harder to justify. Ranier places a great emphasis on the differences in ‘programmes’ that exist between ADPD and PN. A tactical vote, the argument goes, would mean compromising on programme content. We must set aside the fact that not one concrete example is given as to which part of one Party’s programme jars with the other.

I would even go so far as to say that PN’s flip-flopping on major themes from COVID vaccination to environment and construction to social rights would bleed most discerning voters away from the Party and leave them only with the blind loyalists who have the ‘maduma’ tattoed on their heart.

Comparing political programmes is not how our average voter engages in elections. Worse still, we are on the cusp of an election and even the most assiduous followers of our political scene would find it difficult to identify the PN’s programmes and priorities.

Fsadni’s argument assumes that this election is a normal election under normal conditions where voters choose between political parties competing based on political programmes. Towards the end of the article, he refers to voters who might decide on the basis of “the perilous state of the country”. That should be the starting point.

Voters in the upcoming election are not choosing between political parties. The choice before them is much ‘higher’ and much more imperative. Those voters who recognise the perilous state of the country have a chance to reject the failed system. They can reject the legacy of the alternating duopoly that has transformed into a race to the bottom.

There are two types of candidates in the next election. There are those who support the system. This includes the corrupt Party in government and the Opposition that still refuses to renege the system. Yes, the PN still grips strongly to the current structures and only promises to be a different Party in government but, crucially, under the same rules, structures and duopoly-driven arrangements that have proven to be the ruin of the nation.

The other type of candidate is in the Parties that lie outside the system. Unless the PN suddenly transforms into a Party of revolution – a Party that openly declares that its priority is wholesale systemic reform (even to its disadvantage) and the birth of a new republic – then it will not deserve the votes of change.

Votes outside the duopoly are not only protest votes that go to waste. They are potentially the votes of the weaponless revolution.

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saviour mamo
saviour mamo
3 months ago

ADPD should appeal for the PL voters and not for the PN. Honestly I am not seeing them doing this. Weakening the PN and not doing the same with the PL, will be catastrophic for Malta.

Philip Lingard
Philip Lingard
3 months ago

I broadly agree Jacques while recognising the strides made by PL since November 2019. Still a huge distance to go but the Government of today is practically unrecognisable from the plaything of Keith Schembri et al. Not to recognise this is to diminish the force of argument.

The real political crisis of Malta is the crisis of the PN. A democracy ceases to be an effective democracy when there is no viable alternative offered to the incumbent Party. Malta has a choice between a flawed yet recovering PL and a shambles which is riven by personality issues with no discernible political philosophy or direction beyond a diminishing ageing right wing rump determined to destroy its younger liberal reformist cohabitees.

Two PN leaders have emerged from outside elected Parliamentarians and a probable next leader isn’t even in Parliament either. What a damning indictment of the PN’s ability to provide any Parliamentary opposition. If the PN membership finds no leadership within its Elected MPs, how can the country look to the PN as an effective Official Opposition, let alone detect any talent in its ranks to provide a competent Government?

In such circumstances a third voice becomes an indispensable necessity, not just a healthy reflection that two parties can never adequately cater for a vibrant diverse society.

Ġwanni Fenek
Ġwanni Fenek
3 months ago
Reply to  Philip Lingard

Whilst I agree with the main drift of your argument, that is, that the PN problem is a betrayal to our democracy, labelling the PL as “flawed yet recovering” is highly misleading. It may not be as bad as under Muscat & co.—where fraudulent mega-projects were announced left, right, and centre, all of which having a predetermined outcome and the final aim of fattening pockets—but it is still far from recovering.

There is a lot that is wrong with PL even under new leadership and there do not seem to be any signs of recovery. The only difference between this premiership and the previous one is that the previous one had a lot of time to plan the piecemeal, calculated and insidious swindle of the country’s asset. The current government seems to be merely half-assing everything as it goes but there is always one final aim in mind: the accumulation of more capital—whether economic, social, or cultural—and power.

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