Everything that’s wrong with Maltese politics, in one online app…

But like I said at the very beginning: this is an experiment you can try for yourselves, at home. And I think you’ll find that it explains… Oh! So very much, about how utterly dysfunctional our political system has now become

Right, folks: this is an experiment you can all try out for yourselves at home.

And I urge you all to do so, too: because the results will not only be enormously helpful, when it comes to plotting where you yourself stand on the political/ideological spectrum; but they also might help explain why so much of Malta’s political landscape just doesn’t seem to make very much sense at all, regardless from which perspective it is looked at.

It's also easy, fast, and – to the best of my knowledge, anyway – completely free-of-charge. [Note: I mean that in the financial sense only. There may, for all I know, be a small cost in the form of ‘cookies clogging up your PC’s hard drive’; ‘being targeted by AI-driven spyware’; you know, that sort of thing.]

In any case: all you have to do is visit a website called ‘EU and I’ (www.euandi.eu), which will take you to “a Voting Advice Application (VAA) aimed at helping citizens make an informed choice in the 2024 European Parliament (EP) elections”.

Like the more famous ‘Political Compass’ test, on which it is very clearly modelled: users are invited to “react to policy statements covering a wide range of contemporary policy issues and political values in European politics”; with a view to “[providing] voters with a broad view of the European political landscape and their individual positions within it.”

If that were the full extent of this app’s functions, it would already be enough for me to shamelessly plug its usage, like I’m doing right now.

Just the other day, for instance, I overheard a conversation in which someone first rapid-fired an entire litany of (often outrageously) right-wing ‘declarations-of-belief’… only to conclude: “that’s why I’m voting for the Labour Party candidates, in this election.”

Now: I am well aware, of course, that this tells us a lot more about the Labour Party’s supposedly ‘left-wing’ credentials, than about that voter’s own political ideology (more of this later)… but even with that factored in, the contradiction remains too enormous to ignore.

In other words: given that, a) 99% of the aforementioned right-wing beliefs were all centred on ‘immigration’; and b) the Labour Government’s official policy is – and has been, since 2013 - to ‘grow the population’, by means of none other than the same ‘immigration’ issue, that irks right-wing voters so much…

… you’d sort of expect the Labour Party to be at the very BOTTOM of those voters’ priority list right now, wouldn’t you?

But that brings us neatly to a second, far more useful function that this particular application provides (even if I suspect it is entirely unintentional, on the developers’ part).

Unlike most other comparable apps, there appears to be no limit to how often you can fill out the same questionnaire (I need hardly add, giving wildly different answers, each and every single time).

In fact, this design-flaw leaves the app so hopelessly vulnerable to abuse, that I feel compelled to add the following, ultra-important disclaimer:

Every time you fill out the form, you will be given a final choice between ‘Submit your answers’ (in which case, they will be fed into the algorithm’s database, for further research purposes); or ‘Just give me the results’ (whereby your submission will have no effect whatsoever, on the mountain of online misinformation that already exists out there).

For the purposes of this experiment, then: be sure to ALWAYS hit the ‘Just give me the results’ button, when using this app with the equivalent of a ‘fake profile’…

And with that out of the way: onto the experiment itself, a last! This morning, I had a lot of fun filling out that questionnaire - over and over again – giving the answers I imagine would come from all the various Maltese politicians (and/or special interest groups) campaigning in this election.

I started with Prime Minister Robert Abela; then proceeded with Opposition Leader Bernard Grech; ADPD chairperson Sandra Gauci; independent candidate Arnold Cassola; Imperium Europa’s Norman Lowell… and, well, that was about it, really (for the life of me, I wouldn’t know where to even begin, when it comes to ‘maverick candidates’ like Adrian Zammit, or James Ryder).

For each of those individuals, I tried to guess which of the following boxes they (or their supporters) would tick, between:

  • ‘Completely agree/disagree’;
  • ‘Tend to agree/disagree’;
  • ‘Neutral’
  • ‘No opinion’ [Even if, looking back, I don’t think I ever ticked this one, for any of them]

… in answer to statements like:

  • Immigrants from outside Europe should be required to accept our culture and values
  • Immigration into Malta should be made more restrictive

Asylum-seekers should be distributed proportionally among EU member states through a mandatory relocation system

  • Access to abortion should become more restricted
  • The legalisation of same sex marriages is a good thing
  • The EU should rigorously punish member states that violate the EU deficit rules
  • Individual member states of the EU should have less veto power
  • The EU should sanction member states whose governments undermine the rule of law…

… and many more, for a total of 30 questions at a pop.

Sadly, I don’t have either the time or space, right now, to go into any detail on how ALL those different attempts panned out, in relation to each other…  so instead, I’ll limit myself to just one, for now.

Norman Lowell… or, to be more precise, ‘how the typical Norman Lowell voter imagines their preferred candidate to be’ [Note: I make this distinction because – having interviewed the man on more than one occasion - I can confirm that there are sometimes discrepancies, between perception and reality. Most of Lowell’s voters may be attracted to his racist, right-wing rhetoric… but how many of them know that he is also (unlike any other European far-right exponent I can think of) a firm believer in ‘further European integration’? Or deeply anticlerical, for that matter: which places him in opposite camps, from other ‘far-right’ parties such as ABBA?]

But in any case: having duly filled out that questionnaire, in the way an extreme far-right voter would be expected to answer (and you can get a rough idea, just by re-reading the above samples)… I hit the ‘Just give the results’ button, and…

… well, a number of remarkable things happened, all at once.

The first of these, I suppose, can only be described as a ‘magic trick’. Despite having given the most xenophobic, anti-immigration answers imaginable – basically, ‘completely agreeing’ with everything that could be translated as: ‘GOW BEK TO YOR KONTRI!’ – the recommendation I actually I got was:

50% PN; 49% PL; and (even more bizarrely, if you ask me) 37% ADPD.

As for Norman Lowell’s own Imperium Europa, however – along with all the other ‘far right-wing’ parties/candidates, of varying shades and degrees, in this election: nothing. No mention whatsoever…

OK: once again, this tells us infinitely more about the developer’s claims of ‘political neutrality’, than about the actual Maltese political landscape in 2024; but never mind that for now, because… like I said a little earlier. This app has infinitely more uses, than its creators evidently intended.

And one other way to interpret the above result is… well, what it really IS, to be honest. A snapshot of what the Maltese political landscape would look like, if far right parties like Imperium Europa (and others) were to be magically removed from it, altogether.

50% PN, 49% Labour, and 37% AD. Percentages that, on one hand, correspond to ‘how much of their political manifestos overlap, with those of the radical, racist Right’…

… but on the other, they also illustrate, at a glance, just how far removed from one another Malta’s mainstream parties really are, in terms of ‘extreme right-wing policies’.

As is to be expected, there is a significant distance between ADPD/the Green Party, and both Labour and PN… but between the latter two? The difference works out at exactly 1% (which, given the margin of error, effectively means ‘no difference at all’).

But wait, it gets better! Remember that I also conducted the same experiment, impersonating Far Left voters; Centrist voters; Green voters; Red voters; Blue voters; etc. etc.?

Well, the results might not always have been comparable, in terms of raw statistics (on Green issues, for instance, the parties came in as ‘88% ADPD; 62% PN; 61% Labour…) but already, I imagine, you can see a certain pattern developing here.

Regardless which political ideology you choose, for your fictitious questionnaire-filler… the results will be almost exactly identical, in at least one respect.

There will NEVER be a margin greater than 2% (in nearly all cases, it was always the same old 1%) separating the Nationalist and Labour Parties, when it comes to ALL the issues that actually MATTER to voters, in any given election.

Once again, I’ve left myself with too little space to elaborate on the implications of all that… but just to give you a rough idea: with so little actually dividing the two main parties, in terms of policy… can anyone be surprised when ever-larger swathes of voters gravitate away from mainstream politics (where their concerns are simply not reflected, at all), to smaller ‘fringe’ parties/candidates (who DO, for better or worse, address those same concerns)?

But like I said at the very beginning: this is an experiment you can try for yourselves, at home. And I think you’ll find that it explains… Oh! So very much, about how utterly dysfunctional our political system has now become.