The many elephants in the election room

On the eve of election day, I was out and about in Gozo buying the local foods I sorely miss back home. My eye fell on some fresh ġbejniet and the storekeeper warned me that these were the last batch at this price. “I don’t know what will happen next since the price of animal fodder keeps rising,” she lamented, adding “It’s the war you know,” as an afterthought. 

It was not the first or last time that I heard traders warn of the looming clouds of rising prices. It was common knowledge that the cause was Putin’s crazy war, but this was always whispered as a sort of appendix justification. Sympathisers of the government of plenty were quickest to remind you that the cause of all upcoming ills would be the belligerent Russians – woe betide anyone who blames anything else.

Despite all this street knowledge of consequences of international warfare, the war and inflation turned out to be one of the largest elephants under the election tent. Parties promised bright futures and massive public spending without even a caveat that all this could change, will change, if Malta is not spared the global ripple effects of the raging conflict.

The elephant of war was joined by the COVID elephant. Mass gatherings and a general state of nonchalant relaxation were the order of the day in the brief, relatively boring campaign. It was as though we had not just lived through a pandemic and months of lockdown. The brazen approach taken by all parties contrasted strongly with the residual observances of COVID measures. 

As for the votes, the 2022 election was the moment of the reaching of adulthood of another elephant in the election circus. 60,000 eligible voters did not vote for the PLPN. It remains to be seen whether this elephant can continue to be ignored and whether the ‘soul searching’ by the two parties will lead to the proper considerations concerning the new mass on the political landscape. 

The 60,000 are undeniably not a homogenous crowd. The reasons for not voting the main parties are disparate and often unfathomable. Encouragingly the “wasted vote” theory seems to be losing ground though the big leap is to be found in discovering the right force to meld the third vote together into something meaningful that challenges the status quo. 

We should not underestimate the fact that even with the odds strongly in their favour, both the PL and the PN lost votes. Could the 60k be transformed into a critical mass? Could it be Malta’s third-estate in the making and trigger a potential revolution. It is a hard task, one that would require a common cause that brings the non-PLPN voters under one roof. What better cause than the constitutional change the nation is begging for? 

A Constitutional Party could be the ticket to success. The advantage of a Constitutional Party is that it is not tied to a particular ideology on the political spectrum but rather it would advocate systemic reform as the priority for the future improvement of the nation. 

Which brings me to another pachyderm that parked its huge behind on everyone’s eyes throughout the campaign. Election campaigns are meant to be run in accordance with rules that guarantee the democratic functioning of a state. The main political parties should have been disqualified from the start from even thinking of pitching their cause as representatives of the people. The mere fact that they fail to file accounts and have debts to the nation that run into the millions makes them unfit for purpose. 

The problems do not stop there. The inordinate sum of monies spent on the campaign are in blatant violation of electoral laws. Such violations are committed regularly with a sense of impunity. Add to that the gifts from the various candidates, the flaunting of the archaic day of reflection rules, the massive imbalance on state media, the complaints of the smaller parties regarding the way they were treated at the election halls… Need I go on?

Then there are the rules of representation. Rules that have been devised, concocted, and fine-tuned for and on behalf of the duopoly. Forget for a moment the ‘wasted vote’ provisions of the constitution that only provide for proportional presentation once two parties are voted into parliament. Focus instead on the ‘gender corrective’ farce that has obviously failed the electors and been used by the parties to bloat parliament with more seats occupied by the non-elected.

Just look at the comedy that was Labour’s abuse of the 9th district voters. Two Labour MPs elected on the 9th district opted for seats on other districts, two others had already been elected on another district leaving the sole Rebecca Buttigieg as Labour candidate. By vacating the four seats Labour paved the way for Buttigieg to be elected by casual election (as the only remaining candidate). That left one more seat to be filled by Labour and that was filled by… a co-option. 

That is right. Co-option. Somebody who did not present himself as a candidate for scrutiny by the people will be sitting on a seat in parliament at the start of the next legislature. Co-options, gender corrective mechanisms and proportionality for the few. That sums the respect our political parties have for the electorate when push comes to shove.

It is time somebody started to point out the elephants in the room before the circus gets out of hand and we become victims of one hell of a stampede.



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Janet Wojtkow
Janet Wojtkow
2 years ago

Surely candidates should be banned from contesting more than one district and co-option should be made illegal except in very specific circumstances. I will never understand the madness that is Malta’s ‘democratic’ process!

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