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The crucial No 2 Vote - Dr Harry Vassallo

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  • Michael Briguglio
    The crucial No 2 Vote www.independent.com.mt Dr Harry Vassallo Chairperson Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party Candidate 8th and 10th electoral
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2003
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      The crucial No 2 Vote www.independent.com.mt

      Dr Harry Vassallo

      Chairperson Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party
      Candidate 8th and 10th electoral districts
      www.alternattiva.org.mt


      The rise to prominence of the Malta Labour Party in the 1950s under the
      abrasive leadership of Dom Mintoff introduced the bi-polar paradigm
      causing the absorption of smaller centrist parties. With the middle
      ground lost, direct confrontation of the extremes in a winner-takes-all
      contest has been our lot ever since.

      The country�s small size has worked against democratic articulation.
      This, combined with the relatively large number of constituencies, has
      allowed partisan concentration to single voter levels. Long before
      computerisation compounded the issue, the Nationalist Party and the MLP
      were able to make an accurate assessment of party affiliation on a
      door-by-door basis.

      The country�s small size has worked against democratic articulation.
      This, combined with the relatively large number of constituencies, has
      allowed partisan concentration to single voter levels. Long before
      computerisation compounded the issue, the Nationalist Party and the MLP
      were able to make an accurate assessment of party affiliation on a
      door-by-door basis.

      They had to. An almost evenly balanced electorate makes every vote count.
      None of us feels the one-in-a-million sensation that must keep Americans
      away from the polls. We know of elections that were won and lost on the
      strength of 50 votes.

      In 1981, a majority of voters supported the PN but the MLP gained a
      majority of seats in parliament. The PN claimed that the electoral
      boundaries had been rigged. One look at the boundaries map makes it
      pretty clear that they were right.

      It led to years of mayhem and, finally, to an amendment of the
      constitution to create a guarantee of majority rule. Any party having
      more than 50 per cent of the vote would have the number of seats in
      parliament amplified, should the result not give it a parliamentary majority.

      Gerrymandering appeared to have been eliminated, but the original
      electoral system had been effectively defeated by making the first
      preference vote the determinant of the election result. Hysteria rose higher.

      The advent of AD in the 1992 election challenged the status quo; the
      newcomers gained almost two per cent of the vote and nearly sent both the
      other parties under the fateful 50 per cent level.

      Once more the electoral system came under review and discussion went on
      for many months. Agreement seemed close at last, with both the parties in
      parliament agreeing on a five per cent threshold for newcomers. They just
      couldn�t agree on how to count the five per cent. Instead they patched up
      the system once more: a relative majority would be sufficient to ensure a
      majority of seats in parliament if both PN and MLP went under the 50 per
      cent threshold.

      It backfired badly on the MLP who came to government in 1996 without a
      majority proportionate to their vote. The single member majority
      including Dom Mintoff spelled doom for the Sant government.

      Had the MLP allowed a five per cent threshold for third parties, AD would
      have made it to parliament with three seats. An MLP government would have
      been obliged to retain VAT and hold a referendum of European Union
      membership if it relied on AD support.

      There would have been no freezing of Malta�s European Union membership
      application. Malta would have qualified for EU pre-accession funding and
      government revenue would not have nose-dived. We would not have had a
      Lm150 million deficit for 1998.

      The Sant government would not have been constrained to tax the people
      through their water bills and would have not faced the devastating revolt
      of a single backbencher. Modern Labour may have survived and played its
      part in Maltese politics. Malta is a could-have-been-country.

      There would have been no golf course insanity, the hunters would have
      been put in their place. Divorce would not have used as a gimmick to
      distract attention from an economic crisis. An equitable reform of the
      rent laws would have been possible.

      Instead the MLP government virtually resigned, returning power to the PN
      which had not been out of office long enough to reorganise themselves.
      They returned to power unshriven of their arrogance and persuaded that
      whatever they do, the country has no choice but to elect them.

      Now the cobbled electoral system looks like it is about to get its
      revenge on the PN. Because they failed to introduce a fair threshold that
      would have allowed the country fair representation of all three political
      parties, they are about to face a shoot out with the MLP alone. They also
      refused our unconditional offer of support in an alliance.

      AD has surged ahead in popular support. It is the only political party
      making real gains. It is the only political party that may be excluded
      from the reckoning in deciding the country�s fate on the most crucial
      issue since independence.

      AD has said an enthusiastic Yes to Europe. Its thousands of supporters
      weigh in squarely on the Yes side but the PN has chosen to do without
      them. The mad choice was made in 1996 and repeated yesterday.

      There is only one way to undo the folly: The AD core and every new AD
      stalwart must vote AD first. If Nationalists want to secure the AD vote
      to the Yes lobby they must vote AD second.

      To everybody�s surprise, it is the number two vote to AD that will
      determine the issue this time and not the fatal number one. Unless AD has
      enough support to elect at least one candidate in one electoral district,
      the shoot-out remains solely between the PN and the MLP. With a massive
      number two support for AD, which elects just a single AD candidate, the
      whole nation-wide AD vote comes down squarely on the Yes side securing
      the referendum victory with no risk to Nationalist voters.

      It is the only way to be sure. There is nothing to lose by adopting this
      strategy there is everything to lose by not adopting it. To make a number
      two vote as effective as possible, the number two vote must be given to
      the weakest candidate on the PN list, the first to be eliminated. In this
      way the number two vote passes rapidly to AD and can effectively defuse
      the danger of an MLP government with only a relative majority.

      Labourites who have decided in favour of EU membership may be in a
      quandary. If they dare not vote MLP and cannot bring themselves to vote
      PN, there is only AD. Not voting could mean that they allow the issue to
      be decided against their wishes. They could be the ones to make the
      difference and bring about the reforms needed in the PN, MLP and in the
      way politics is run in Malta.










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