The end of the PL-PN duopoly?

In this situation the possibility of a strong third party cannot be ignored. This party should take most of the voters who are now saying that they will not vote in the next general election

The latest MaltaToday survey that was published last Sunday confirms a trend that has been obvious at least since the election held earlier this year: both Labour and Nationalist parties are losing support, with the decrease being faster in the case of the PN.

Apart from the mess that led to Joseph Muscat’s resignation, the current administration is the third successive Labour government, and a loss of popular support is normal and expected in such circumstances.

On the other hand, the PN would have been normally expected to start recovering from the drubbing it got from Joseph Muscat’s first electoral triumph. But this is not happening and, as things are going, it is not expected to be happening any way soon.

Young political agnostics: why Malta could be on the cusp of change

The reasons for this were there for all to see during Simon Busuttil’s tenure as PN leader and, even worse, the PN’s internal reaction to the election of Adrian Delia as PN leader with the votes of the ordinary card-holding PN members (tesserati).

Incidentally there is a somewhat similar situation in the UK where Liz Truss – who was elected leader of the Conservatives by the card-carrying members – does not actually have the support of the majority of Tory MPs. Of course, Truss was appointed UK Prime Minister, while Delia became leader of the Opposition. At the same time, one cannot but compare the ruthlessness with which both Tory MPs and the Nationalist MPs greeted their new leaders, both elected against their better judgement. Those in the PN who opposed Delia were not just ruthless, but were also crude and vulgar. Subtlety was certainly not the forte of those who opposed Adrian Delia from day one.

But that is water under the bridge, some might say. It is only so up to a certain point. The negative effect of the episode of the removal of Adrian Delia from the PN leadership still rankles and it is still off-putting for many voters. Whether those who opposed Delia were right or wrong is irrelevant to the fact that the methods adopted by them did more harm to the PN than any benefit that could have been gained by his eventual removal.

One can hardly blame voters who judge politicians by their methods. And the blame lies squarely on those who adopted the most spiteful methods to change the PN leader.

It now seems impossible for the PN to start regaining the trust of the voters. Its election results and its ever-decreasing support and results from the polls since then show that a large gap between the two main parties has been created in the political spectrum. Fully 31% do not support either PL leader Robert Abela or PN leader Bernard Grech. Since the March election, more voters have abandoned the loser – Bernard Grech – than the winner – Robert Abela. More PN voters than Labour voters have switched off. Surely this is hardly normal in political scenarios.

The intended abstention rate among those who voted PN is so great (21.1%) that there is space for a strong third party that could actually elect MPs in a theoretical election held at this point in time.

Yet the ADPD is not making headway, its support only increasing to 3.2%. Interestingly, 33.7% - that is more than a third of young voters (16-35 years) – say they will not vote. The PN’s problems are even bigger than what they seem, as it is not making any headway with these young voters.

In this situation the possibility of a strong third party cannot be ignored. This party should take most of the voters who are now saying that they will not vote in the next general election. Of course, the first test is the election for the European Parliament, although this is not a very good barometer of Malta’s political situation with more people refraining to vote than there would be in the general election – something that is a fact all over Europe.

If a third party capable of having a strong following is to surface from nowhere, it will be after the MEP elections, not now.

But this of course depends on whether the PN will keep on losing support with Bernard Grech unable to stop the haemorrhage. Ideally it should change leader after the next debacle that it will be facing in the wake of the elections to the European Parliament.

Otherwise, it will just limp on while making the dawning of a strong third party no longer a veritable impossibility... and with that the end of the PN-PL duopoly.

Racist undercurrents

The news that the three police constables were charged with abducting and grievously injuring foreign nationals is bad news indeed. It seems these officers practised the ‘sport’ of picking some foreign national at random while out on patrol, take him to an inhabited area in Qormi, beat him up and abandoning him. In Court, they have pleaded not guilty and the case against them is still going on.

This is shocking. It is not the first time that foreigners of African origin were badly – and illegally – treated by police officers or army personnel. They were grievously injured or killed for no other reason than that of being African.

Last Tuesday, The Times listed what it felt were the four worst incidents of this nature, including the murder of Lassana Cisse in April 2019.

The responsible minister, Byron Camilleri, condemned the latest incidents, calling them “disgusting and unacceptable”. But the country has to react to these incidents more than by bringing the guilty to justice. There should be no place for police brutality in any case, of course, but picking a victim because of his skin colour and ethnicity is obnoxious.

It is a well-known fact that people with certain psychological tendencies look for jobs that give them the opportunities to satisfy their illicit desires. Paedophiles, for example, seek to become sport coaches, scoutmasters or school janitors: they want to be in a position that gives them more opportunities for their favourite abuses.

Similarly, racists and people with sadistic tendencies seek to become members of the police force or of the armed forces so that they would have more opportunities to satisfy their morbid desires. More so if they are also racists.

This leads me to insist that the government should introduce a system of psychological screening to all those who apply to become members of the police force or of the Armed Forces, as well as to those who serve in other detention services.

Training them and giving them lectures is not enough.