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Saying it as it is

Saviour Balzan blogs: 'Most people were taken over by the two resounding messages: corruption and economy. And really from my point of view, neither of these was a strong enough reason to vote or not vote for a party'

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
4 June 2017, 8:30am
Just now it is all about who is going to walk up those steps at the Auberge de Castille.
Just now it is all about who is going to walk up those steps at the Auberge de Castille.
It has been a tradition to publish a special edition of MaltaToday the day after a general election. Post-election Sunday is a frenzy when it comes to reporting, so we try to imagine what the front pages could turn out to be so that we would not be caught out designing the front page at the last moment.

We did just that yesterday, creating four different scenarios and drawing up four separate front pages. And we do this in spite of our polls and all the polls. In our heart of hearts we know anything can happen.

Today afternoon, everyone will know who will be the next Prime Minister. But there is a feeling that things will not quite settle after the winner is announced.

There are a number of open wounds, unsettled scores and unfinished business. The die was cast weeks ago, and many jumped on their respective bandwagons. The vast majority were already decided before the last week. All had their good reasons and others less of a good reason.

The first category are of course those whose first consideration is party loyalty. That is, ‘my party is better than your party’. Everything else is irrelevant. This category is the one that makes you want to puke.

The second category are personally in favour of one of the political parties because of a particular stand. The third category are those who feel aggrieved by the other party or by an action carried out by one party or another. The fourth category are those who know that they can benefit or at least secure some guarantee of continuity by voting for a particular party.

Now that is not an endless list but it sort of sums it up.

So now for the hard part. What did I like in the proposals from the political parties?

The truth is that I think nobody gave a toss about the proposals. Most people were taken over by the two resounding messages: corruption and economy. And really from my point of view, neither of these was a strong enough reason to vote or not vote for a party.

Whereas I think that Panama was Muscat’s gravest error, I could not wave my hands on the PN’s bandwagon and say: “Oh yes, guys, you are the ones to save the day.” It is a little bit too early to trust the same guys who had their fair share of corrupt practices in the previous 25 years.

And on the economy, while I agree that is was growth like no other, I have to say I am not exactly comfortable that the growth we are talking about is linked to the ‘never say never’ construction industry.

Really and truly, when I wrote what I had to write in Illum on why I will be voting, the reaction was of course cut right down the middle: those who berated me for saying what I had to say, and those who applauded me.

The stark reality is that we are what we are because of our experiences. And this brings me back to my childhood and teenage years. And I have my parents to thank for this. The 1970s and 1980s was a time when politics was not only confrontational but dangerous.

I was brought up in a household which chose not to discuss politics and to warn the children that politics was not for them. I grew up not knowing what the political conviction of my parents was. I had an open mind and a critical mind too.

That kind of environment is probably present in some families today, but I am afraid that most families drag their children into a war of attrition of ‘us and them’: the good ones and the bad ones. How can this country develop a mature electorate if at an early age they already are making fun of either Joseph Muscat or Simon Busuttil?

It is a dreadful situation and I have watched mass meetings of both sides with schoolteachers and schoolchildren in ecstatic poses, dressed up in t-shirts with political slogans. It is simply not on. It is wrong.

I am sick of equating the two sides together, on every issue. Which is why, whoever is Prime Minister today must really focus on the business of national reconciliation. I cannot see it happening, but it really is important. And both leaders will be under great pressure not to get it going.

There are then the allegations and magisterial inquiries. As I see it, the infamous Egrant allegations are bound to lead to a no confirmation of the far-fetched claims about Egrant and Michelle Muscat, and when that happens there is going to be turmoil – irrespective of who is going to be the winner.

Then there is the implementation process of all the promises. And here I am sure anyone my age, will agree that it is a tall order. A lot of people have said a lot of things in this election. Some people have painted some people black, without any proof. Other people painted themselves white when they were in fact not fit for purpose.

Others continued to believe that the issue of conflict of interest and ethical standards worked for politicians and not for political appointees. Worse still, we have seen a breakdown in the rules of engagement. Journalists have become campaigners, magistrates have taken the role of the police, the media reports bits of reports but not the

A lot of people have said a lot of things in this election. Some people have painted some people black, without any proof. Other people painted themselves white when they were in fact not fit for purpose

Most people were taken over by the two resounding messages: corruption and economy. And really from my point of view, neither of these was a strong enough reason to vote or not vote for a party whole reports and speculation overrules fact.

I do not care what people think or say. If Muscat wins this election, I cannot see him bridging with the media like Labour had done up until 2013.

He will do a Donald Trump and discard the media and accuse it of being a harbinger of fake news.

And if Busuttil is elected, the media and journalists who followed him and declared their allegiance will find it very difficult to question him.

In the last four weeks, I resigned myself not to tweet, post on Facebook, video-blog or accept invites on party stations. I was also unusually mild.

But the four weeks are over. It is high time we return to the basics of investigative journalism. It is all about: Hunch/leak – investigation/research – confirmation – questions – answers – story.

The way some media has worked in the last weeks has been completely anathema to what journalism is all about. Hang up – emotion – speculation – bias – story – answer – libel.

Beyond all this the timing of a story is also important. In the sense that, there really should be no timing.

A story is a story, is a story. Well... the last thing on everyone’s mind right now is what is going to happen tomorrow to the media.

Just now it is all about who is going to walk up those steps at the Auberge de Castille.

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