Political fatigue

Both sides are so busy concerning themselves with the events of five decades ago that they appear to have forgotten we are now in 2012.

Cartoon for MaltaToday Midweek by Mark Scicluna.
Cartoon for MaltaToday Midweek by Mark Scicluna.

 

It is difficult to imagine a less inspiring and more evidently fatigued political environment than Malta's in mid-2012.

It seems as though, having exhausted virtually every topical subject on the political agenda - everything, that is, except the extremely uncertain future of the Maltese islands over the next 12 or so months - both major political parties are now locked in a vicious circle of constantly invoking the past as an antidote to the present.

We saw this with Labour leader Joseph Muscat's self-conscious rehabilitation of his predecessor Dom Mintoff: who had been sidelined by the party following his notorious 'revolt' against Alfred Sant 1998. And we are seeing the same thing constantly emanating from the Nationalist party, which keeps plugging away at such historical references as the 'return to the dark days of extreme socialism' - as Prime Minister Gonzi put it last Sunday - as if to forcibly remind us all of a time when the PN itself was viewed as a 'deliverer' from the shackles of Mintoffianism.

Either way, both sides are so busy concerning themselves with the events of 10, 15, 25... sometimes even 50 years ago, that they appear to have forgotten we are now in 2012. And even 'recent' controversies - such as the ongoing Parliamentary fracas regarding Malta's permanent representative to the European Union, Richard Cachia Caruana - are symptomatic of the same malaise.

By seizing on a Wikileaks cable originally published over a year ago - and even then, detailing events that had taken place almost a decade earlier - the Opposition seems to be obsessing over issues that have virtually no relevance to the current political situation.

Perhaps buoyed by the antagonism that Cachia Caruana inspires even among his political 'allies', the PL seems to be so absorbed with exploiting the weakness provided by government's one-seat majority, that it has arguably lost sight of what it was elected to do... i.e., provide a credible alternative to government's policies.

Government's reaction, on the other hand, has so far been to latch onto the Opposition's motion and present it to the general public as 'proof' that the Labour Party hasn't really changed at all since the 1970s and 1980s: still permeated with positively bizarre notions of foreign policy (or so the Nationalist Party spin machine would have us believe); and ever at the ready to tarnish people's reputations for its own political gain.

Above all, the Prime Minister immediately seized on the fact that the Wikileaks cable dealt primarily with Malta's role in NATO's Partnership for Peace initiative, as if to 'prove' that the Labour Party was still against PfP membership, and therefore - by extension - EU accession.

Dr Gonzi also seems incapable of defending Cachia Caruana without somehow also dragging in such utterly irrelevant, historical issues as the Labour government's treaties with North Korea - signed way back in the very early 1980s, a time when Joseph Muscat was little more than a child.

Nor has he explained why he evidently feels that Malta's permanent representative to Europe should also be 'immune' to parliamentary scrutiny... unlike all such positions in other countries, all the way up to the president of the European Commission.

This would not be considered a serious way to conduct politics even at the best of times. In times of international (and local) crisis, when government's own ability to draw up  a national budget remains decidedly uncertain, one cannot help but get the impression that both sides of the House have finally lost all touch with reality.

But the situation is worrying for another reason also. What neither Nationalist nor Labour Party seems to have taken into consideration is that the issue they are both now bogged down in - i.e., whether or not Cachia Caruana actually bypassed Parliament by reactivating Malta's PfP after 2004 - is so technical and far removed from the ordinary, everyday language of local politics, that neither Nationalist nor Labour supporters would be able to feel any genuine enthusiasm if their own lives depended on it.

The urgency with which both Labour MP George Vella and (surprisingly) Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi are treating this issue is in fact entirely disproportionate to the relevance of the same issue to people's daily lives.

No amount of acrimonious bickering in Parliament can really disguise the fact that the two parties are ultimately squabbling about nothing - or at least, a matter of extreme unimportance, when compared to the impending chaos brewing on the European horizon, or even the economic uncertainties on the local stage.

The only noticeable effect this long-drawn out parliamentary 'trial' is managing to achieve is that of further alienating (possibly even mystifying) an already extremely disillusioned public... while spectacularly failing to address any of the same public's real concerns.

If this is a deliberate strategy on the part of one or both parties, it is to say the least short-sighted. Yes, this sort of historical finger-pointing may serve to boost flagging grassroots loyalty for a short time... and with an election in the offing, any advantage is to be taken in full.

But the long-term effect can only be one: to instill and disseminate still further unnecessary political tension, in a country that is now evidently suffering from political fatigue.

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Interesting editorial BUT lets make one thing clear namely until there are still members (even prominent of course) within the Labour hierarchy who tomorrow can be in government, then YES the PN have all the RIGHT to mention the past since this is a mirror of the future !!! the late 70s but most of all the 80s are years of shame for the MLP (PL or whatever they try to call themselves)and so YES they need to be remembered and mentioned until the day that ALL the members involved at the time are out of politics !! Lets not forget that the PL is practically the same MLP of the time...just look at the arrogant and un respectful way they talk and act.... just see the posters on the MLP's club facades and the billboard to remind you that they are the same !!! Unfortunately they are the same people they are the same party they are the same... Viva il-Labour, Viva il-labour... Ma tghamlu xejn mal......... !!!!! Hopefully for MALTA THE TIME WILL COME THAT THEY WILL HAVE A CLEAN SLEET TO START MAYBE BEING GIVEN THE CHANCE. The only chance they might have had, was a transitional changing period under George Abela who many people say would not have let the old school remain in place......