‘Do not feed the voters’

If I’m going to sell out my vote to the highest bidder... I’d much rather sell it to someone who is willing to pay for it with his own money, rather than mine

There probably isn’t a single candidate contesting this election who isn’t guilty of multiple violations of that law
There probably isn’t a single candidate contesting this election who isn’t guilty of multiple violations of that law

Just when you think this election couldn’t be more surreal if it were directed by Salvador Dali... along comes a timely reminder that it is actually illegal to offer ‘food, drink and entertainment’ at a political rally.

Yup, folks, you read right. All those ‘coffee mornings’, dutifully serving sandwiches and pastizzi to voters during every election campaign we’ve ever had since Independence (and even before)? Well, they’ve all been ‘criminal offences’. Every single last one of them.

And it took a human rights agency, of all things, to dig this crucial information up for us. Aditus Foundation this week issued a press statement, quoting the law as follows: “54. (1) Any person who corruptly by himself or by any other person, either before, during or after an election, directly or indirectly, gives or provides, or pays wholly or in part the expense of giving or providing any food, drink, entertainment, or provision to or for any person, for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to give or refrain from giving his vote at the election [...] shall be guilty of the offence of treating.”

And because there are two sides to every coin, the law also says that: “(2) Every voter who corruptly accepts or takes any such food, drink, entertainment, or provision shall also be guilty of the offence of treating.”

Hmm. I reckon they’re going to have to build a whole new prison compound to accommodate this new category of ‘criminal’ we’ve just invented. There probably isn’t a single candidate contesting this election who isn’t guilty of multiple violations of that law (at least, of the two main parties: we all know AD can’t afford to throw a wine-and-pizza party anyway... otherwise, they’d have probably elected a candidate years ago).

But tell you what: try this experiment out for yourselves at home. Just type the name of any candidate of your choice in your online search field, and add the words ‘coffee morning’. 

Woohoo! In just five minutes, I found enough evidence to indict practically the entire Labour and Nationalist parties on corruption charges... which, it must be said, is more than can be said for all the other corruption allegations made in this election to date... in some cases, for crimes committed up to 20 years ago or more.

This, for instance, is from a news report about electoral spending during the 2008 campaign. [note: I have decided to withhold the names, as I am, after all, publicly accusing them of ‘corruption’]: 

“[The PN candidate]’s promotion also included an event on May 22 at Tattingers nightclub with free entrance and two drinks per person, and another reception at the Upper Barrakka Gardens where she extended a general invitation to members of the public, among other expenses...”

In the interest of balance, the article also refers to a Labour candidate who “appears to have been the biggest spender, splashing out tens of thousands of euros on his campaign.” (I happen to know that some of that was spent on finger food and canapés, because I was invited to more than one of those events as a constituency voter... but of course I turned the invitations down, as my vote costs slightly more than just a couple of sausage rolls and a glass of white wine). 

Oh, and there was another Labour candidate whose campaign “drew to a close with a party at an exclusive Paceville club, complete with free tickets to Ibiza and Italy, mobile phones and other gifts.”

Mind you, I’m still not sure if any of that actually counts. You can’t exactly ‘eat’ or ‘drink’ a mobile phone, can you? But hey! There’s also ‘entertainment’ on the list. It is apparently a ‘corrupt practice’ to throw parties, or have live bands or other kind of entertainment act performing at a political event... or even to play music over a speaker system at a mass rally (especially if, as is rumoured, they don’t actually pay any royalties).

So next time you ‘corruptly’ sing along to Modern Talking’s ‘We Take The Chance’, or Yazoo’s ‘The Only Way is Up’, on a coach-ride to a meeting paid for by your party ... you may well be in violation of Article 54.2 of the Criminal Code. Better look up a good lawyer from now...

Oh, and by the same token I guess that automatically aborts any ‘concert’ Ludwig Galea may have been planning to launch his PN endorsement in the next three days (though to be fair to Ludwig: at least, he didn’t invade Iraq. ‘Nuff said...)

But in any case. Now that we all know that offering and accepting ‘food, drink and entertainment’ is a ‘corrupt practice’ according to law... well, just look what a rotten, low-down, dirty and miserably corrupt little nation we have really turned out to be after all. 

I mean seriously: hand on heart, how many of you can claim never to have even taken so much as a bite out of a tuna-and-mayo sandwich at a ‘Taht it-Tinda’ meeting... ever, in your entire lives?  And all that coffee you’ve consumed at all those election-time coffee mornings since the 1980s... not only has it eroded your stomach lining and given you ulcers, but it has completely annihilated all your political integrity, too.

Think about it. I’d more or less understand being bought for a contract worth millions, or the proverbial ‘offer you can’t refuse’. But YOU... you sold your soul for a glass of lukewarm Nescafe with tinned milk, and half a pastizz wrapped up in a paper napkin. And now, you will just have to live with the shame for the rest of your stinking, corrupt existence...

But the best part of it is... you’re all complaining about corruption! Other people’s corruption! Yes, even now, as you ‘corruptly’ stuff your faces at that Tattinger’s event hosted by the candidate you intend to vote for... or buy a lottery ticket for a bottle of plonk at that party fund-raiser at the local kazin. 

Not to mention all those heaving multitudes at mass-meetings on both sides, swaying and singing along to dance music pumping out of the speakers. They even put up photos on Facebook afterwards, to show off how much ‘entertainment’ they ‘corruptly’ partook in. Where’s the Police Commissioner when you need him? (No, wait, don’t tell me: I think I can guess...) I mean, what more evidence do we need to have them all arrested? 

But then, it wouldn’t be a Maltese anti-corruption law if it didn’t also spectacularly fail to actually ever function in practice, would it? 

Let us close an eye at the sheer logistical impracticality of even thinking about enforcing that law... why stop at ‘food, drink and entertainment’, anyway? What about the even more blatant practice of simply buying votes through impossible electoral campaign promises? 

Next time you ‘corruptly’ indulge in a pastizz or two, listen to all the things you’re being promised at that coffee morning. Free public transport, tax holidays, great unearthly infrastructural projects, free tablets for schoolchildren, subsidised Internet connectivity for three years, a free holiday to a European destination of your choice, a free cure for cancer, the secret of Everlasting Youth, etc... it sort of puts all those complaints about ‘finger food’ and ‘nibbles’ into a little perspective, don’t you think?

In fact, the more I think about it, the more corruption I see in electoral promises than campaign events. After all, when a party candidate splashes out on grub and goodies, he or she (unless there is REAL corruption involved) will generally be spending his or her own money to buy your vote. All those promises I mentioned above? It will be YOUR money spent on those.

Personally, if I’m going to sell out my vote to the highest bidder... I’d much rather sell it to someone who is willing to pay for it with his own money, rather than mine. So tell you what... here’s what I’d settle for myself:

1.    For starters, I’d like a good plate of Spaghetti Vongole. [Note: They’d have to be of the ‘Verace’ variety, even at the cost of flying them over from Siracusa. Otherwise, no deal.]

2.    After the overwhelming endorsement by the Police Commissioner earlier this month, I’d have to go with a typical Maltese Fenkata for main course. ‘So good, you’ll keep eating down to the last morsel, even as the entire country goes up in flames around your ears...’ 

3.    I’m not big on desserts, but no corrupt meal is complete without an espresso.  

4.    I need hardly add that I expect the waiter to keep topping up my wine-glass throughout. And none of this cheap Chateaneuf de Konrad, please. It’s either Chateau Mouton-Rothschild (1945), or Cheval Blanc (1947)... or else, my vote goes to the other guys.

There: by my estimate, the bill will only come to around €30 (without wine)... or €25,030 (with wine, and calculated only on one bottle). You can all afford that, can’t you?

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