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michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

Malta’s political orphans

In their efforts to eat into the other party’s natural electorate, both parties are ending up abandoning the sectors that harbour their own traditional supporters

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
15 November 2016, 8:28am
At this point in our history, many are realising that the two party system is a ‘winner takes all’ system, with people being appointed in important posts as a result of their party loyalty rather than as a result of their merit and capabilities
At this point in our history, many are realising that the two party system is a ‘winner takes all’ system, with people being appointed in important posts as a result of their party loyalty rather than as a result of their merit and capabilities
Joe Camilleri, Mintoff’s former private secreatry in the heydays of 1971-76 writes on Facebook to express his disgust at the way Joseph Muscat’s Labour Party has betrayed the principles that the old Labour Party believed in. A former Labour candidate, Mark Sammut writes a book regarding the involvement of prominent people in Muscat’s government having accounts in Panama as made public through the Panama Papers revelations.

Former PN stalwart Liliana Risiott posts on Facebook her incredulity at the way Salvu Mallia was accepted and is being promoted as a PN candidate, asking what has become of the old PN with serious people as candidates.

These and many others are today’s poltical orphans: people who cannot find any affinity with the politcal party they used to love and support.

I have always said that Joseph Muscat’s coalition – made up of the old Labour core and the middle class switchers – will suffer strains that will snap at some point in time. The signs are already there. As things stand, I do not think that the final snap will take place before the 2018 election.

The disillusion of PN stalwarts with Simon Busuttil’s leadership is well-known, even if not much is written about it. It will also surface after the 2018 election. Commenting about Simon Busuttil’s appointment of Caroline Muscat as PN campaign manager, that he described as a coalition of sorts with environmentalists, Noel Grima (The Malta Independent on Sunday, October 15)  echoed the feelings of many a disillusioned PN supporter when he concluded: ‘The way I see it, the way forward for the PN should have been to get the party’s structures from the bottom up geared and collaborating to govern, rather than summarily carrying out a mass execution and burial of all in search for an unholy Grail of a purified party which represents no one.’

Indeed the PN’s structures at a local level were virtually abandoned by the party leadership soon after Joe Saliba exploited them to elect Lawrence Gonzi as party leader. After the 2013 electoral debacle (that even included a few members of PN section committees voting Labour) the rehabilitation of the party structures was the most important job to be carried out – the sort of job that Louis Galea and the late John Camilleri (God rest his soul) painstakingly did, locality by locality, after the 1971 Labour victory. Will the PN have to go through another electoral debacle before realising this?

In their efforts to eat into the other party’s natural electorate, both parties are ending up abandoning the sectors that harbour their own traditional supporters. It is no surprise, therefore, that there are a large number of people on both sides of the political divide who feel they are political orphans – they believe in a flag that no one is waving any more.

This sort of situation would normally lead to the end of the two party system with a Labour offshoot on the left of Joseph Muscat and a PN business-friendly offshoot on the right of Simon Busuttil. In Malta, third and fourth parties are not easily set up because of various factors. Historically, small parties have gone and come and the two party system has always overcome them.

At this point in our history, many are realising that the two party system is a ‘winner takes all’ system, with people being appointed in important posts as a result of their party loyalty rather than as a result of their merit and capabilities. Before the election, Joseph Muscat had heavily criticised the PN administration for doing that and promising meritocracy as his guiding principle – ‘Malta tagħna lkoll’. This promise soon went to the dogs and his administration even managed to do worse than the one it succeeded. 

The truth is that the possible contribution of valuable people is always ignored by the administration of the day solely on partisan grounds – a waste of human resources that a small country such as Malta can ill-afford.

This unfortunate situation can only be overcome – admittedly only up to a degree – if we have a coalition goverment that would not consider blind allegiance and absolute loyalty to the Prime Minister as a ‘sine qua non’, irrespective of one’s merits.

The time when voters will bring the two pary system to an end – albeit possibly temporarily – will eventually come. The political orphans will refuse to be subjugated to those that lead parties carrying the name but not the spirit of old.

The result of the 2018 election will indicate how soon this will happen.

The Trump Card

Like me, many were surprised with the victory that Donald Trump pulled off in the US Presidential election last Tuesday.

He won not because he was considered to be better than the other candidate but because he successfully exploited the voters’ basic instincts of egoism and hate. Solidarity has been thrown to the dogs with Trump promising a wall between the US and Mexico, a review of the US’s commitments to NATO and a return to the old chestnut that climate change is a myth created by scientists.

Will Trump impose the promised exaggerated tariffs on foreign goods so that his voters will again get the jobs they lost in economically unsustainable factories all over the US? That is the road to oblivion and not to Amercica being great again.

People all over the west, who are troubled with the negative effects of globalisation on the little citizen, yearn nostalgically for a past when things were better – or so they percieve. At the end of the day, however, consumer goods will be produced where and how it is cheaper to produce them and resistance to this economic fact of life cannot but lead people into a blank wall.

Responsible politicians should explain that the past cannot be regained and lead their countries to adjust to the new world. Instead most of them exploit this hankering for the past – as has also happened in the Brexit referendum.

Trump’s victory could even signify a watershed moment in the modern history of the world.

It could mean the end of the West’s hegemony as its leadership of the world will continue to wane slowly until China becomes the world’s real poltical leader. This is not going to happen overnight, of course.

Perhaps in twenty years or so... when I will probably no longer be among the living.

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon is a former government minister who served under several Nationalist admini...
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