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The mud bath

In this campaign the media has come together to rally against the government’s record on governance

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
29 May 2017, 7:37am
Everyone is caught in a lie and cannot quite run away
Everyone is caught in a lie and cannot quite run away
When readers and sceptics sit down to wade through the newspapers they will be rushing to attentively read the political surveys, looking out for the slightest interpretation, trying to calculate in their heads what could happen next.  

Surveys can be very much like reading the horoscope. Trying to find the bits one thinks one likes and leaving out the bits one does not like.

There is little doubt that the MT surveys are the most conservative but the most reliable when it comes to predictions. We are traditionally correct and our consistency is usually our strong point, but anything can happen in an election. Our strength lies in the fact that our surveys have been going on for some time now. Month after month, year after year, to be precise, since around 2005.

It is a week to go before the vote.  

The narrative in this election has been so very different from the previous elections.  

When one sees political leaders in a mud bath commenting on body language and sweaty fingers you start questioning whether this is politics or cabaret.  

Usually it is the journalist who comments about body language and sweaty hands, not the politicians themselves.    

Some newspapers spin stories in tandem with political parties and then act as the prosecutor, not appreciating the distinction between writing stories and doing policing. When some politicians are not pleased with a story they attack the medium and the messenger. But it depends on whom and who.

There is also no distinction between speculation, spin, truth and facts.  

The level of political intolerance has been close to unbearable, very worrying if you ask me. It has become so bad that some families are not talking to each other. The social media commentary is reminiscent of an orgy of abuse in a coliseum of opposing tribes.

Both sides accuse each other of taking the country down. But surely everyone is to blame.  

Muscat for not taking action on Panamagate and not seeing that the institutions do their work as they were supposed to, and Busuttil for questioning every institution and acting like judge and jury and accusing everyone of being in cahoots. Indirectly, he is criticising the legacy of 25 years of Nationalist administrations. He won’t admit that, of course.

And out there most people cannot quite figure out who is telling the truth. Everyone is caught in a lie and cannot quite run away. One bloc believes one thing and the other the exact opposite. Those who decide to stay in the middle are labelled apologists or are simply called ignorant, or worse still weaklings bowing to the powers that be.

Most people do not even know what the FIAU actually is there for, and that this agency cannot – is not supposed to – publish its workings or have executive powers, and that it should never at any point succumb to or be influenced by any politician.  

It works on banks, audit firms, legal firms and financial companies. Politicians say they will order the FIAU to publish all its reports, not realising that this kind of request is just the wrong thing to say. It is in fact not legally possible.

This was bound to happen.  

The Prime Minister underestimated the ability of the Nationalist Party to kick up an almighty storm when it smells blood. He never really had the chance of having a taste of the PN in opposition. They are ruthless, effective and unforgiving.

Now he knows.

On the other hand the Nationalist Party has never had to counter a Labour Party that is more business-oriented, more liberal and more socially aspiring than its ‘socialist’ predecessors. If Panama had not come to the Mediterranean, no volcano would be belching the fire and brimstone of political invective we are snowed under.

This has been a very difficult campaign to report.  

The level of intolerance is so extreme that it is next to impossible to move away from where the political parties want to pigeon-hole you.

In this campaign the media has come together to rally against the government’s record on governance. It would have gone away if there had been resignations a year ago. But that did not happen. The offenders soldiered on.

This onslaught by the media has not always happened in the fairest of ways. There has been much hyperbole and conjecture, and spin has been the order of the day.

There has also been an unfair assessment of what the media should be doing. And in this role I would rather play to the altar of truth than genuflect to either of the two parties.

To keep this argument valid, the PN has embraced ‘the blogger’ to release a barrage of stories, some fictional, some mixed with vitriol and others with fact, to produce some hard-core odium. Indeed, she simply blocks the good and valid arguments of the Opposition.

At the very end of the day, it comes down to one simple thing. How will people vote?

People will vote according to a certain kind of emotional quotient that is very much linked to their sentiment on a number of issues, their well-being, their parochial interests, income, altruism, their interest in the future, their concern on particular proposals, their dreams, disdain for their opponents, blind support for a party and most importantly loyalty to their kind of tribe.

There is another thing that has had a profound impression on people like me, a switcher par excellence who has probably voted for every party under the sun.  

The ability to forget. The strength to forgive the misdemeanours of the past and the courage to believe that those individuals who profess that they have changed, have truly changed.

I have to admit that I have yet to rediscover my courage. My resolve not to look at the scars, the wounds on my shins, the courage to quell my fear of malice, of hate, of revenge and crass hypocrisy. 

The grass has yet to grow. The wounds have yet to clear.

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan is the founder and co-owner of MaltaToday. He has reported on Maltese poli...
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