Saving Maltese politics

There is no escaping from an underlying trend that clouded many of Joseph Muscat’s decisions, to reward the unworthy and close an eye to their unethical behaviour

Undoubtedly, politics in this small island of ours is not what it used to be. 

The PN’s 25 year stint in power, followed by a whopping 36,000 vote defeat, was quite a feat but evaporating this lead of 36,000 votes in three short years beats it all.

Perhaps it is the higher level of education, or the onslaught of the social media, or our EU membership, or a combination of all these factors, that have created an ever growing thinking, critical mass of fickle voters that all political parties can ignore only at their peril.

After many years of sustained economic growth, a well performing economy is now taken for granted. An increasing number of more discerning voters need not worry about their personal fortunes and now have more time to think. As a result many have reorganised the priorities of their political expectations: good governance and the environment have now taken pole positions. Bread and butter issues seem to be a thing of the past. In my days it was just daily bread, democracy and human  rights.

No longer so.

Perhaps it was his youthful rashness, or the lack of old fashioned morals, or his enthusiasm to do what is needed to get to the top at whatever the cost, but there is no escaping from an underlying trend that clouded many decisions taken by Joseph Muscat: this was to reward the unworthy and close an eye to their unethical behaviour.

Some contend that it started with rewarding Cyrus Engerer. This was followed by Australia Hall, Cafe Premier, the Gaffarena expropriation mess, New Zealand, Panama… and here we are today. It is indeed a remarkable three-year roadmap! Definitely not what the electorate thought it was buying in March 2013.

Whether they like it or not, Prime Ministers are considered to be role models. Giving a free hand to the unworthy is setting a bad example and one should not be surprised that it is impossible to hold this back once it gets out of hand. Condoning misbehaviour may work in the short run, but not in the long run. That is why the Muscat government finds itself where it is today.

Last Wednesday, in the TVM programme ‘Dissett’, the Prime Minsiter put on a brave face and tried to send the message that the ship of state is fine and that he is in no crisis. I wonder how many of those discerning voters took this message on board. If they even bothered to see the programme, that is!

To the detached observer, the current situation is nothing less than a national political tragedy. Throwing back Labour into opposition after a quarter of a century in the wilderness is not in the national interest. The Nationalist networks that unwittingly engineered its whopping 36,000 vote deficit are decimated but still breathing. Three or five years is too short a time to eradicate them for good. 

The PN so soon back in power in reality means that Malta does not have any real political choice and would be practically an outright condemnation of all our political class. It is not even in the interest of the Nationalist Party to regain power in such a short time after such a long stint in government. It will be another poisoned chalice, similar to that when, in 2008, Alfred Sant managed to lose the election with 1,500 votes... lumping the country with the PN for another five disastrous years after no fewer than 20 good years in power. 

So what can be done to save politics in Malta?

A third party can hardly ever happen in Malta. It would need to field some four serious candidates in every electoral district to reach a critical mass. And even if it can happen, it can lead to a political scenario Italian style with all the political class becoming prima donnas and our politics turning into a soap opera.

My hope rests with genuine Labour party supporters – some of whom I have seen with tears in their eyes – realising that their party has been hijacked by a gang of people whose personal interests come well before those of the party and of the country. 

I have no doubt that there are many in the Labour party – more so the left wing intellectuals – who are disgusted at the chain of decisions rewarding the unworthy.

What the Labour pary needs is an upheaval within its ranks. The rot is now so deep that the resignation of one more minister is of no use. It needs – indeed, the country needs – a radical overhaul of its current leadership and of its methods.

Labour still has a massive majority in parliament and if it takes this risk now, it will still have a fighting chance to win the next election. It is a decisive moment where those who count must stand up to be counted. 

Joseph Muscat will hardly rise to the occasion and go ahead with the ultimate sacrifice in the interest of his party and the nation. The chances are that he will hang on. He is too young to give it all up so soon and he will probably linger on and die a thousand deaths like his predecessor...

It is therefore time for the genuine Labour intellectuals not just to see this, but also to do something about it… and save Labour from itself.   

‘It wasn’t I’

The former parliamentary secretary – my namesake Michael Falzon – is still protesting his innocence about the Gaffarena expropriation mess.

It now turns out that it was his personal aide, Clint Scerri, who pressured the management of the Lands Department into rushing the notorious deal. Acccording to Falzon this proves that it wasn’t he who did anything wrong. 

It is obvious that Falzon – once an aspirant to the Labour leadership – does not have the slightest  idea on what poltical responsibility means and implies. It was Falzon who picked Clint Scerri from his habitat in Sliema’s ‘lazy corner’ and appointed him, as a trusted person, to be his personal aide. The fact that Scerri abused this trust  does not exculapte whoever chose to trust him.

Falzon cannot distance himself from the fact that he is politically responsibile for the appointment of Clint Scerri and his sudden metamorphosis into the pretended maestro of the Lands Department orchestra...

Crying ‘It wasn’t I’ is puerile, at the very least.

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