After Europe, it will be yet another day... except for some

We will wake up with an electoral result that will determine to what extent Abela will continue defending Joseph Muscat, and help Bernard Grech decide whether he will stay or go

Robert Abela (left) and Bernard Grech
Robert Abela (left) and Bernard Grech

Author and intellectual Immanuel Mifsud said on TVM’s Xtra that for Maltese voters, emotions trump rationality in elections. That could be true, but I disagree with my good friend Immanuel. Many voters are quite justified in voting the way they vote.

To start with, it is the ‘economy stupid’; many Maltese and Gozitan voters are motivated in their decision by their financial status. No matter how much we put down this country of ours, with its ugly skyline, unbearable traffic, claustrophobia and pettiness, the quality of life is still an incredibly high issue for most.

People in most demographic segments are better off than ever before; from pensioners to young people and first-time buyers. That is a recipe for complacency and a reluctance to be touched by the issues which are purely moral in nature.

Having said this, the one thing that has irked most people especially young people is the lacklustre side of politicians. Their ability to only address problems when an election is looming over their heads or when surveys show a downward trend in support.

The long-standing debate on Malta’s problem with corruption, planning, traffic, and environmental protection are still not do-or-die voting issues. The choice I believe is based on whether they are convinced a party can manage the country effectively.

There are those that place the issue of corruption a priority, but they are the absolute minority. Even though they are perfectly justified in reneging on their party in the face of irrefutable facts that confirm corruption.

History serves to remind us that moral issues will only matter when the economy starts to flounder. Only then will people come together and cry wolf.

This campaign has been an uneventful political campaign, and where it not for the Vitals’ inquiry, we would be lost for a subject to discuss. Other than Vitals, most of the debates that took place did nothing to excite the public.

Many voters were not even aware of the political topics. Younger people, the 16-yearolds in particular, were at a loss. And no matter how hard we try, we must admit that most 16 years old have got no clue of what they are doing next.

This MEP election has offered few stars; ok, Metsola is a star for so many, but she is geared for a European political market not the Maltese one. Yesterday when she voted in Sliema, her message was in English not Maltese, packaged for the foreign audience watching her.

The other individuals who did strike a chord, were Steve Ellul and Thomas Bajada, two Labour candidates, and to a lesser extent Peter Agius (PN). Others simply did not make the grade.

David Agius (PN) and Daniel Attard (PL) came across as too cocky – the latter incalculably arrogant. And David Casa, the jaw-clenching PN veteran, comes across as expired and repetitive while some of the other MEP candidates lacked the confidence to string a structured argument let alone face a simple question.

In terms of singular campaigning, the Oscar has to go to former Green boss Arnold Cassola, who stood out for his eloquence and fighting spirit.

Yet at the very end of the day, most people will be looking at the political leaders – Robert Abela and Bernard Grech. They are the ones who inspire or disappoint.

It was a campaign which saw the PL with a well-oiled machine and a PN attempting to keep up. It was characterised by a PL campaign which was positive in the messaging and a PN campaign which for want of a better word, repeated the same mistake of appearing negative. Europe hardly featured in the debate. It was all about little Malta and what was in it for us.

The political parties also have their targets in this election. Abela wants a 30,000 lead on the Nationalist Party and Grech a difference of just 20,000 and a third seat. It will be a pyrrhic victory for both.

The likeliness of a third party or individual attaining a threshold is very unlikely, but the combined third-party vote could wreck the plans of the major parties.

We will wake up with an electoral result and spend some days listening to victorious chants and recriminations. It will determine to what extent Abela will continue defending Joseph Muscat, the disgraced ex-prime minister, who faces numerous criminal charges. It will also raise the question whether the PM will consider opening to new niche issues which have been ignored for obvious political reasons.

It will help Bernard Grech decide whether he will stay or go. Though it very much appears that going for Grech does not seem to be on his agenda.

For the rest of us it will be yet another day. Grappling with the news, trying to give context to the decisions that happen in Brussels and trying our best to engage with our bored audience.