A Haz-Zabbar on Comino…

Nudist beaches, a power station that operates by Divine intervention, and a revival of waning Christian values were among the key proposals of the independent candidates in this election

Nazzareno Bonnici is an independent candidate who claims to represent the Tal-Ajkla party.
Nazzareno Bonnici is an independent candidate who claims to represent the Tal-Ajkla party.

Ruth Amaira may spend a lot of time in front of a camera, but she doesn't always mask her emotions as well as one would expect from such an experienced TV personality.  

But then again: can anyone really blame her? I for one would find it hard to keep a straight face when the guest on my programme assured me (with the divine conviction of a witch-hunter) that we could solve all our energy problems simply by praying to the Good Lord for a functional power station.

Nor does it help when the same candidate proposes to build a replica of Haz-Zabbar on Comino (Why, you ask? I've no idea, and he didn't say). Or how about a Liberal candidate who produces a picture of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and some obscure European liberal MEP (in which he himself does not even feature), in order to make the point that...

Actually wait, I've no idea what the point was. Perhaps because it was such a nice photo?

In any case, that was pretty much the extent of what two out of Malta's three independent candidates - namely Zaren Bonnici of the L-Ajkla Party, and John Zammit of the 'Alliance of Maltese Liberals' - had to offer on tonight's scheduled PBS political broadcast.

In the interest of fairness, I will not count the third independent candidate (Anthony Mercieca, formerly of Azzjoni Nazzjonali) among their number. For while he may not be the most confident of seasoned politicians to ever face a camera before an election, Mercieca's overall political platform - namely, a valiant defence of Chritsian values, against an onslaught of new-fangled liberalism - remains firmly rooted in entirely legitimate political traditions, and are widely heard by voters across the political spectrum.

As he himself put it in one of his more lucid moments: "Liberalism is growing, especially among the young, and both parties are bending over backwards to attract younger voters."

Simple, straight, to the point... and above all, true. (In other words, the clean opposite of pretty much everything that came before.)

And this only compounds an existing phenomenon that comes across as rather ugly, when placed in the context of how the same media treat the more serious political contenders. Mercieca's relative 'normality' tonight only threw into sharp focus the sheer dottiness of the other two; and while it was all done in fairly good nature, I couldn't help getting the uncomfortable impression that what we were watching was less a political discussion than a glimpse of a Bedlam-style freak circus from a distant Victorian age.

As expected, Zaren Bonnici provided the most entertainment in this respect... partly because while his individual proposals are the stuff of Tal-Farfett (one concerns a race-track on Gozo... something which has actually existed since the mid-1980s), he pulled out one after another in quick succession with all the panache and mischievous sparkle of a master magician.

And this, I suppose, is part of what attracted thousands to his first Zabbar mass-meeting last Saturday: that vague uncertainty, whereby you can't really tell if he is putting it all on just for show.

Moreover, there is an underlying element of truth to his otherwise outrageous fantasies. "The people believe ME, not Labour or PN," he defiantly declared... and while this boast may not be 100% correct... well, you can't say it's 100% wrong, either.

Indeed, the very fact that so many people flocked to his meeting is itself a reflection of how little they have come to 'believe' the other parties. In this sense, Bonnici comes across as the Fool to Gonzi's (and Muscat's) King Lear: i.e., the maverick clown whose very eccentricity exposes where the real madness lies.

As for John Zammit, it was perhaps unfair of Amaira to press him only on the nudist beach issue -i.e., his most instantly forgettable campaign proposal - when the same Zammit is also the only candidate in this election mentioning the previously unmentionable abortion issue: a legitimate political concern if there was ever was one (even if Zammit himself is hardly the best-placed person to front it.)

But judging by how he defended his nudist aspirations, perhaps it's just as well he didn't have time to discuss anything else...

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