An experienced EU lawyer and football enthusiast said on a podcast not long ago that you cannot expect political cartels to reform themselves. A cartel, by definition, exists by eliminating competition and thrives in a position of exclusive power and dominance.
Once it comes into place, once the position of power is achieved and all opposition is eliminated, then the purpose of a cartel becomes survival.
The EU expert was talking about sports federations. He observed that a recent study demonstrated that in 75% of sports federations, in their most recent elections, the incumbent not only had won again but had run unopposed. They observed strong indications of a lack of democracy and representation.
This is combined with the fact that the concentration of power is extremely high in these organisations. Regarding checks and balances, accountability and separation of powers in the same sporting federations fall short of the expected standard. The problem is not endemic to sports organisations but is felt strongly there. So how can this be solved?
Federations act like political cartels and as we have mentioned earlier, they cannot be expected to reform themselves. The last thing a functioning cartel will commit to is a new set of rules and regulations that practically mean the end of its existence.
As we close this year, 2023, we can look back and witness the struggles of a political cartel to survive. This time, it is not about sport but about the cartel that has been in power, strengthening its hegemony and stranglehold over a nation’s institutions since the advent of Joseph Muscat and his populism.
The behaviour of Abela’s government on all possible fronts has been chronicled in this and other columns- It reeks of a lack of commitment to real change and reform.
Only last week, on Republic Day, President Vella complained of the fact that a project of Constitutional Reform under the auspices of his office had been buried through inaction. We witness the dragging of feet when it comes to effective institutional reform.
What is happening is the tightening of the hold of the cartel and its associates on the systems of government.
True, little battles are being won, enough not to stifle all hope. However, the general outlook is not one of reform but consolidation. Can a leopard change its spots? Ultimately, we always end up falling into the Mediterranean paradigm. “If we want everything to remain the same, we must ensure everything changes.”
Keep an eye out for fake transitions and fake changes in 2024. Some may not be as blatant as the switch from Air Malta to KM Malta Airlines.
Some simulations will be harder to sell to the international institutions that might (hopefully) spare some time to hold Malta up to their usual standards.
The EU, the biggest club of which Malta is a member, has much on its plate at the moment. Sadly, it has not performed the role of strict monitor that many of us had expected.
It could be because Malta is too small, relatively speaking. Because crimes against democracy and accountability seem like peccadillos in a tiny island state far from the bustling troubles in Brussels. It would be a shame should this attitude be sustained.
I firmly believe that much hope lies in our judiciary. Understaffed, underpaid and overwhelmed by cases, we might find that the last bastion that holds out against a total cartel dominance that will not reform itself is to be seen in the corridors of justice.
We have already had some signs of a tiny earthquake in the year that is closing. Here’s to hoping there is more where that came from.