Free at last! Harry Vassallo With irritating and contemptible predictability the PN walked out of the tripartite talks on electoral reform straight into theMessage 1 of 1 , May 2, 2006View Source
Free at last!
With irritating and contemptible predictability the PN walked out of the tripartite talks on electoral reform straight into the media. It was clear all along during the negotiations that their one interest was extrication from the talks with a PR stance that can sell. It did not have to make sense. They feel that they can sell ice to eskimos because they have pulled that off so often before. Insulting their audiences intelligence has never been a problem before.
This time their gambit was to pose as the saviours of Gozo. It was a splendid smokescreen, typically PN, quintessentially devoid of authenticity. They claimed to have insisted on preserving the integrity of the Gozo electoral district and blamed the MLP for obstructing their valiant efforts to restore Ghajnsielem to the 13th District. On closer examination their proposal is of progressive prejudice to all Gozitans. But they think they can sell ice to eskimos dont they?
Contrary to what the PN claimed, all three parties agreed that Gozo should be allowed its integrity as a separate and whole electoral district. In principle all agree. When it comes to practice they fail miserably. The MLP do not want to adopt any further change that will involve them in wrangles with their candidates in the rest of Malta over changes in their little electoral fiefdoms. Their candidates personal interests come before the basic rights of Gozitans. The PN thought they could steal a march on their archrivals by coming out with the idea of keeping Gozo separate and whole electorally for all time. It makes such a good soundbite. They did not bother to mention that this would mean that, as the population continued to grow, Gozitans would be progressively under-represented further and further. They made their claim to Gozitan gratitude even as they proposed a solution that would make all Gozitans second class citizens for all future time with prejudice against them growing ever further in time.
Since Gozo seems to have become an outsize electoral district, the reasonable solution should be to increase representation. If it is not yet large enough to accommodate 6 MPs a part of Malta can be assigned to Gozo. Gozitans might resent the intrusion but would prefer that compromise, gaining a sixth seat for their island, than being doomed to eternal and growing under-representation.
Of course much of the nonsense can be avoided by appropriate administrative measures. If the Maltese owning a second home in Gozo could be allowed to continue to enjoy their ferry privileges leaving their Identity Card registration to refer to their permanent homes in Malta, the extraordinary growth of the Gozo district would be resolved and the reflux to Malta would be sufficiently dispersed not to warrant any district changes in Malta. It would be a very economic change because it would be no change at all. Still the Gozo issue is a smokescreen for both the other parties. Both have a lot to hide.
The MLP, in the knee-jerk response to PN media opportunism, failed to mention their own outrageous proposals in the tripartite talks. In a country that was ripped apart following the 1981 election giving an anomalous result and no majority rule, the MLP have had the temerity to propose that should any party gain a relative majority over 45%, if no other party enjoys a greater majority, they would be granted a majority of seats in parliament regardless of the majority of votes represented by all the other parties put together. Can they justify that outrage to their supporters? Are they all ice-to-eskimos salesmen?
Not to be outdone but always keeping in mind their glacial image, the PN proposed a lowering of the electoral threshold from 16.6% to 7.5%. It seems generous. Even read backwards it is a significant compliment to the Greens. They are quite happy to produce a result in which 21,000 voters express their preference for the Greens and are not represented at all, not taken into the democratic account at all. They do not expect the Greens to overcome that hurdle and the final 0.5% seems to be the last sliver to eliminate the risk of multi-party democracy reaching these islands at last.
They also proposed to take out insurance against the future they fear: no cross-party voting would be allowed and should any Green be elected in the usual way overcoming the 16.6% threshold in any one district, his or her election would be invalidated unless his or her party also gained 7.5% nationwide. The elimination of cross-party voting could be expected to exacerbate the hysteria on No 1 preference votes minimising the chances of Greens to acquire them. The special treatment reserved in fact for Greens alone, that election in a district in the usual way would not count, creates a two tier political class structure with Greens always second class. It mirrors the MLPs undemocratic vision which would leave two parties with a hope of being in government and the third with no hope of ever taking on any responsibility at all, a small minority dominating a much larger combined opposition. The thought of a coalition remains their worst nightmare.
Although I have watched such antics closely for 18 very long years, it still amazes me that the leadership of the other parties can be so completely detached from grassroots reality not to realise that these proposals will be found to be profoundly disgusting by every reasonable person in the country. Even as we may shrug and tell ourselves that it confirms our suspicions of them, we admit the very low level of democratic values this country drags into the third millennium. The justification and rationalization campaigns that will follow in the media machines of the other parties cannot erase history. These were their proposals. Such were their democratic credentials. To be associated with them is to endorse this proposed structural violence, this betrayal of the most basic democratic principles.
As usual we bent over backwards in the negotiations, we accepted the unacceptable to the extent of ourselves proposing a split threshold: 7.5% if neither of the other parties enjoyed an absolute majority and 3% if one of them did overcome the 50% +1 mark. It catered for their fears and excuses on ungovernability and what not. Neither accepted it and we reverted to the 5% threshold proposed a decade ago by the PN in the Gonzi Commission. That too was rejected in 2006.
As things stand, the country or a very significant part of it is disgusted by its political class because of its poor performance, the economic shambles created by their zero-sum politics and their eternal confrontation. The cost of changing our tax system three times in three years will be borne by us and probably by the next generation also. The neglect of major issues while the country divided deeply and bitterly over EU accession cannot be forgotten. The astronomic expense of our political hospital at Tal-Qroqq is another of their infamous economic legacies. Their failure to rein in the unsustainable development which has devalued Maltas tourism product permanently was caused by their insatiable craving for funds to feed their endless internecine war. Non-enforcement of existing laws was no accident. Now they have put the cherry on top by exhibiting their total lack of democratic credentials: failure, blindness, shameless partisan egoism regarding basic democracy which should be their peculiar field of expertise as politicians.
The end of the negotiations restarted by the Greens after the long silence since the 1995 Gonzi Commission fiasco, gives us closure. The only thing that we have gained from all this is the shaming of our rivals. We have lost nothing and we expected to gain nothing more from them. The challenge before us remains the same as it always has been.. we accepted it as such a very long time ago and have made very significant gains on it in recent years.
From now onwards to be associated with the PN is to be associated with this charade, this shameful disregard for democracy. Blaming the MLP for not cooperating is simply not enough. To be associated with the MLP is to be as brazenly undemocratic as the PN. There are no two ways about it. The black and red flags are signs and symbols of shame and provoke only contempt and pity in anybody with democratic values. Can Dr Gonzi and Dr Sant continue to pose as Easter Island icons, champions of all that is pure and good in democracy? They have both betrayed the best parts of their histories.
As a Maltese, knowing that together the other two parties represent a vast majority of my compatriots, I too feel the shame they bear. This is the pitiable level which our democratic culture has attained in all these years. We are absolutely nowhere in democratic development and we propose to compete on a global level in all other sector? It is simply absurd.
To preserve the status quo is to preserve the mafia-like power networks which for over four decades have made a mockery of the official democratic façade described in our constitution. There is no equality of rights in a country which makes perfectly legal the financing of political parties by tycoons. Political parties which have shifted from competing in an atmosphere of political violence to one of financial clout are not beholden to their support but to their financiers. This is not a democracy but an oligarchy. Who built the PN headquarters? The last wisp of their democratic souls has been liquidated, cashed in. Does anybody imagine that a change of one-party government to one-party government will change any of this?
This is why nothing works as it should. It is not a matter simply of corruption. It is a matter of institutional deviance, the scandalous symbiosis of politics and some economic operators which has become perfectly normal, established, the way things are done. It is the anti-system in control and the bright institutional façade just that, a façade. An even playing field in business, in the labour market, in any field at all in such conditions? It seems and it is impossible. Loyalty, blind and total is the only qualification for success. The best pine away or escape. The country never had a hope of unleashing its full potential, never.
Never before, never to such an extent nor more clearly have we deserved our name Alternattiva Demokratika. We are the only democratic alternative available. It is crystal clear that there is no other. Our Christian Democrats are neither Christian nor democrats and our socialists are a parody of what they claim to be. They have sunk to such depths because they are so deeply embroiled in the anti-system that the advent of a third party to parliament will have earthshaking results for their covert life-support systems. The closer we climb to success, the more desperate they become, the more blatantly undemocratic, the more explicitly they exclude the Greens. They have made themselves a laughing stock by displaying their fear of the future.
Their actions proclaim to the country that Alternattiva Demotratika has the potential to change the political landscape forever, to release the pent up energies suppressed by submission to the status quo. We can allow the Maltese to get politics off their back and to unleash their creativity, to reach out for their future without asking permission or the blessing of any politician nor fearing that their hopes will be dashed because the blessing has been granted to another.
The other political parties have declared to the country that they fear the future and are doing their utmost to delay it, to prevent it. It is the future which the Greens can allow the whole country to make for itself. It is rich and beautiful, the product of our diversity and ingenuity, our courage, skill and persistence. It is the future we deserve and which partisan paranoia has denied us so far. It is inevitable, just a matter of time.
The country wants a political structure it can be proud of, one that can be taken for granted as a secure base consolidating the rule of law from which its infinity of private projects big and small can depart. The country wants freedom to live its life to the full. The other parties are afraid to allow it. The future is inevitable. Procrastination cannot prevent it, it can only increase the already harrowing costs incurred so far. Their evident dismay is our joy. It announces that the future we have worked for is within our grasp, if we are prepared to reach out for it.
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