6 Big Political Debates To Watch Out For In 2017

Our predictions from everything we've learnt this year

Abortion

Around the world, 2016 will go down in history as the year in which the unimaginable happened: Brexit, Trump and terrorist vans ramming people down in busy cities. But Malta also had its fair share of jaw-dropping moments. We became international pioneers on LGBT rights, we introduced the morning-after pill, we approved a bunch of high-rises, and we made the most embarrassing of international headlines with Panama Papers. The question is: What comes next? What should we expect to be discussing in 2017? Based on reader feedback and comments, these are the next great political debates.

1. Euthanasia 

"My name is Sam, I am currently a student at the University of Malta. I have two loving parents, a brother, wonderful best friends and two gorgeous cat babies. I am for the most part completely average, except that by the age of 17, I had already planned my death." 

This is how Sam DeBattista introduced her predicament on Lovin Malta back in October. After being diagnosed with Huntington's Disease a few years ago, Sam would like to secure the right to end her life with dignity in her home country. Her frank words resonated with readers and with Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli who agreed to meet Sam on our request. This debate is not going away. 

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2. Cannabis Legalisation

"Remember the collective boner we had when we saw Malta’s name splashed all over the news for being one of the countries with the best laws on LGBT rights? We were pioneers for once and we loved it. Why not do it again?" Goat Writer, Lovin Malta

A 12-point case for Malta becoming the capital of Cannabis was one of Lovin Malta's first articles – so, we've pretty much been calling (or hoping for) this debate since day one. And what with more and more places in the world legalising recreational use of marijuana, we're still pretty convinced that the Maltese public will be keen to keep talking about legalisation in 2017. 

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3. Abortion

"There will be changes soon - that we are even having this conversation is evidence. A year and a half ago I couldn't discuss these issues with my own sister and cousin - now we talk about it all the time. I'm in touch with campaigners in Ireland and Poland [where campaigners are challenging abortion laws]. It will happen."

This is how women's rights campaigner Francesca Fenech Conti described the chances of Malta introducing abortion when the BBC asked. The fact that the BBC asked is significant in and of itself. Relaxing Malta's absolute abortion ban may be the next logical step after the raft of social changes that have been spearheaded by this government. The government may decide not to cross this line. But that doesn't mean the debate won't rage until it does. 

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4. Corruption

"I’ll never forget the moment I got the platform up and running with the first terabyte of files. I was alone in my apartment on a sunny day in San José. I ran some searches to test everything and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing." 

Data journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia never expected to find two of Malta's most powerful people at the centre of the Panama Papers, but things just haven't been the same since he did. The story rocked the islands, and the world beyond, and in a recent development even saw the European Parliament announce that they will be swooping in to have a closer look. This story is not going away and more stories of corruption are likely to keep surfacing until there is serious political will to tackle the inherent weaknesses of our political setup. 

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5. Privatisation

"The moment I discovered that Barts Medical School was coming to Malta (well, Gozo), I smelt a rat. I suspected that the desirable brand name would be used as a not-so-covert method of engineering the privatisation of Maltese healthcare. I fear I was right.Alex Clayman

This isn't the sexiest of discussions but when your healthcare system is slowly being transferred to the private sector, it's time to start paying attention. Lovin Malta covered both sides of the story – the one which painted a picture of more corruption and the unhealthy spread of public resources, and one which spoke of a great opportunity to set precedent globally. Whatever the case, we're pretty sure there's still plenty of room for this debate to become bigger and more belligerent. 

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6. Development

"The whole area resembles an enormous building site. Even alongside flats and villas that are already occupied foundations are still being laid, and heaps of stone can be seen on vacant sites that are awaiting development while road works are proceeding haphazardly, with frequent interruptions to make provisions for underground services.”  Architecture Review, 1969

Overdevelopment was one of the hallmarks of 2016 in Malta but while this year was mostly spent talking about buildings, next year will see many developments start to take shape. Whether it's the continued destruction of Sliema, the building of towers, the redesign of Paceville or the closure of White Rocks, this debate will continue to rage on in 2017 and beyond.

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BONUS: Funding for Malta's National Art Collection

"Just to clarify. Mattia Preti's autograph original of the 'Apelles painting Campaspe in front of Alexander the Great' is in a private collection in Spain. The picture purchased by Heritage Malta is 1/3 of a workshop replica of this original." Prof Keith Sciberras

Although we are quite doubtful that this will be a debate the Maltese public are ready to sink their teeth into, we've included it because we think it should be. This year Lovin Malta spoke to the curator of the National Museum of Fine Arts who will also be running MUŻA once it opens in 2017. What we discovered was that the former institution ran at an appalling budget, which couldn't even allow for visitor statistics to be properly recorded; as well as an arguably skewed set of priorities for what that budget should be spent on

We hope that in 2017 the public will pay closer attention to how our artistic heritage is managed. Wishful thinking, maybe. But we've got to start somewhere.

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What do you think 2017's major public debate will be? Tell us in the comments on Facebook!

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