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michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

On a personal note

I could not hope that in his second term, Muscat would raise the ethical standards of his performance and suddenly become a paladin of good and transparent governance

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
4 June 2017, 9:00am
Over the years, the collective decisions of the Maltese people – in elections and referendums – were historically shown to be, by and large, correct
Over the years, the collective decisions of the Maltese people – in elections and referendums – were historically shown to be, by and large, correct
I am writing this before people cast their vote – in the full knowledge that it will be published when the voting is over and everybody is waiting for the result.

The last time I was seriously tempted to vote Labour was in 1971 – the election that George Borg Olivier lost by a whisker and launched 16 years of Labour in power. I remember hearing Labour’s message and practically agreeing with it and Borg Olivier’s weak response. In the end, my traditional leaning won and I voted against Mintoff becoming Prime Minister rather than for endorsing the PN’s performance. 

At the time there was an argument doing the rounds saying that if the country was doing well under Borg Olivier’s laissez faire – it must surely do better with Mintoff’s dynamism. Mintoff was much more inspiring hope for the future while Borg Olivier was already becoming yesterday’s man. Yet the signs of what Mintoff would do were there. Worse was the crude and insensitive way he did it. Not that there weren’t things on Mintoff’s agenda that were long overdue.

Move forward 46 years to 2017 – practically half a century – and I found myself facing a similar dilemma. Joseph Muscat has been doing the right things in many areas and Malta’s economic performance was never better. But the issue of good governance and how he tackled corruption was too big to ignore. In my book, ignoring this issue was a no-no. 

I could not hope that in his second term, Muscat would raise the ethical standards of his performance and suddenly become a paladin of good and transparent governance. It would be more of the same with some of his acolytes being tempted to do worse in the knowledge that after his second term their time would surely be up. I could not come to terms with the idea that my vote goes to help open up this possibility. So, in the end, I missed my first chance in 50 years to vote Labour and voted against endorsing Muscat, which in our system meant endorsing Simon Busuttil’s PN. It could have been my natural bias as well. But I will desist writing on that.

Not that Busuttil’s PN presented a clear future direction – except for saying he plans to carry on doing the same without the corruption. Many found his inspiration for a better future to be practically non-existent. He campaigned well only on a negative ticket but that sort of thing alone does not raise hope for the future. It does not inspire people to hope for a better life: the most important factor that usually swings the electorate; that hope for a better life that in 2013 Lawrence Gonzi could not even attempt to kindle.

Thanks to Muscat’s own goals it was not very difficult for Simon Busuttil to convince people that Muscat should go on the basis of lack of good governance; but he hardly convinced people that he can govern and that he is prepared to do so with a set of proposals that do not sound like empty and incredibly expensive promises.

Therein lies the reason why I think that Muscat won the election, despite my vote to the contrary.

The debate between the two leaders on television last Wednesday only helped to reinforce the perception that Joseph Muscat is better than Simon Busuttil. I think that those who followed the debate saw the stark difference between the two men. For me Muscat’s allegations of corruption within the PN made no serious impression but I think many bought the idea that corruption is part of life and that Muscat is therefore the better option.

Not only that. Muscat managed to dent the PN’s best card – that the issue people are voting about is one of principles and not about economic achievements. By equating the two parties as far as corruption is concerned, he left televiewers and listeners who accepted this perception with no option but to choose him.

So was my vote – like that of so many others – useless? Not really. I think that Muscat’s victory this time around will not be as big as that of 2013. In other words Muscat will be re-dimensioned.

This means that Muscat will no longer be percieved as some unbeatable champion and this – after all – is part of a democratic process that in Malta is still a very vibrant one, despite the many faults, abuses and mistakes of Maltese politicians.

The downside to this – as I have already pointed out – is that Muscat’s victory gives a sense of urgency to those who are in the political fray for their own personal interest; egging them to seek to make a quicker buck. Judging on his record, this could be the prelude of Muscat’s eventual downfall. Time will tell.

Over the years, the collective decisions of the Maltese people – in elections and referendums – were historically shown to be, by and large, correct.

I keep hoping and believing in the collective wisdom of the Maltese people that supersedes – by far – the folly of the flag waving hordes who attend mass meetings.

The other June election

Next Thursday the people in the UK will also be called to vote in a snap election called in the interest of the party in government rather than because it was democratically due.

Just as has happened in Malta, Theresa May is making the UK election campaign increasingly personal. She recently ripped into Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn saying her rival would go “alone and naked” into Brexit negotiations due to start soon after the June 8 elections. The shift in campaign style came as May’s once 20-point lead started showing signs of fading, with some polls showing it has evaporated into single digits. 

If May’s majority in the House of Commons does not appreciably increase, it would mean she lost half the gamble in calling an early election. The result could even leave her negotiating with coalition partners at home while trying to broker the terms of Brexit, rather than with the free hand she asked for when she called the snap election.

Yet she would have won another term at the expense of the period she gave up when opting for an early election.

Sounds familiar?

As the Italians say ‘Tutto il mondo è paese’.

micfal@maltanet.net

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