The mess of electoral campaigning in Malta

, by Mark Seychell

The mess of electoral campaigning in Malta

Electoral Campaigning in Malta has ever been marred by ultra-partisan politics, mainly between the two major political parties; the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party. Malta’s semi-violent political past has practically forced the people to assume a fanatical position regarding national politics. In fact, during the last MEP elections in 2004, the Maltese electorate had an 82% voter turnout and a 94% voter turnout during the national general elections.

During the MEP election campaign, this fanaticism has been used as a political weapon by both of the major parties. Furore has been raised on a nationwide scale regarding certain national affairs such as the exaggerated raise in the utility tariffs, public transport reform, student grants, and prices of healthcare services and so on and so forth. These are very important issues, but on a national scale. The problem is that these national issues were being used as bait for votes by the major parties. Can you imagine a MEP making a motion in the European Parliament to reduce the utility tariffs in their respective member state?

The other problem is that European-Maltese liaison issues were somewhat sidelined in the latter part of the election campaign to make way for the national issues which are the issues mostly being felt by the people. The European issues mainly being raised in Malta are the abolition of spring hunting by abiding with EU regulations, which is a major talking point among hunter and euro sceptic alike, since hunting is a popular hobby among the Maltese. This case regarding spring hunting has also been referred to the European court. Another issue is VAT charged on car registration, which is against Community Law, is a case which has been referred to both the national court and the European court by the Labour Party, representing circa 17,000 people claiming damages.

The problem with the two major parties cancelling each other out on such issues of utmost importance in the European Parliament has led to a European election campaign being turned into a purely local contest.

Also, of course, one cannot ignore the phenomenon of human tragedy that is illegal immigration. It is a tragedy, which unfortunately, perhaps even insensitively, is a problem for Malta and fellow Mediterranean countries. This tragedy has been turned into a political game by certain Maltese political parties. The some minor political parties, such as the National Action Party encourage the repatriation of illegal immigrants, an act which is condemned by the Geneva Convention. The major political parties squabble endlessly over the issue, most of the times even needlessly so in order to attract voters. One of the Maltese EPP-ED (Partit Popolari Ewropew u d-Demokratiċi Ewropej) MEPs, Simon Busuttil, commissioned a report to amend the Dublin II Regulation, a vote which won with a clear majority in the European Parliament, a vote of great importance for Malta’s plight, a vote which secured obligatory burden sharing among other competences. Yet even this motion was greeted with hostility and contempt among the opposition party in Malta.

The problem with the two major parties cancelling each other out on such issues of utmost importance in the European Parliament has led to a European election campaign being turned into a purely local contest. The course of the election campaign has been run by having the Nationalist Party putting forward European proposals, the Labour Party then skilfully play into the citizen’s hearts, by exploiting discontent over long-standing national complaints, which then led the Nationalist Party to respond in a reactionary way. Why do the parties do this? They do this because the people are insufficiently educated as to how the European Union and its institutions work. Why are the people ignorant of such important matters? They are ignorant because, for the parties, it is convenient that they remain so. This is because the parties can then do what they do best, play the blame game, sometimes spinning lies, and hoping that they do not get caught; and thus playing right into the hearts of the unsuspecting citizen by highlighting broken promises. If we truly want to see the beauty of populism at its peak in European Elections, it is vital that the people be educated on the institutions of the EU.

On Saturday the electorate turned out in force, with 78% of eligible voters casting their vote, the highest in Europe. Unlike with our European brethren, the socialist Labour Party won with an absolute majority of 55%, giving them the majority of the seats within the bosom of the PES (Partit tas-Socjalisti Ewropej). Incumbent Simon Busuttil (EPP-ED) was immediately elected, while confirmation of election took much longer for others. David Casa (EPP-ED) was also re-elected. Throughout Europe the EPP-ED group were the dominant political party, however in Malta it was not the case, similarly to five years ago. The Labour Party, elected incumbents Louis Grech and John Attard-Montalto, along with new comer Edward Scicluna. Joseph Cuschieri was also elected as the sixth MEP, should Malta be awarded the additional seat by the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

Since Malta does not have many seats in Parliament, which is why it is imperative that the candidates we chose act in a consistent, credible and responsible manner in the European Parliament. Hopefully, when voting, the Maltese electorate asked themselves, “do I think that this candidate will make a difference in Parliament?”. Unfortunately, in my honest opinion, there were some Maltese candidates who would have been ineffectual in the European Parliament. Hopefully the elected MEPs, who will start to prove themselves with the start of plenary on the 14th of July, will make our country proud, and not just their party, but that is another story in another article.

 Image provided by the author.

Your comments
  • On 21 June 2009 at 19:34, by Joseph Caruana Replying to: The mess of electoral campaigning in Malta

    It is interesting also to not the complete absence of European issues which were debated in the European election campaign of both major camps.

    On a further note, the only party which assumed a European approach to the campaign has been the Green party (AD) with their promotion of a green new deal on a European level. Which financial benefits would have been substantial for Malta to try reach the renewable energy goals... maybe people or better politicians are still awaiting for another opt out.

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