The European Parliament and local council elections are on our doorstep. It’s been quite a tepid campaign as far as Maltese campaigns go, dominated less by talk of the EU and local councils and more by debates on abortion, the environment and the role of foreigners in Maltese society.
The billboards were out in force too, making sure everyone knows what the parties’ messages are and creating quite a lot of debate along the way.
Here’s a look back at the eight billboards which, for good or ill, we believe left most of an impact throughout this campaign.
8. The billboard that didn’t last long (PN)
On the first day of the campaign, the PN erected a billboard to warn that people cannot cope with the rising cost of living. A thought-provoking message, to be sure, were it not for the fact that the billboard was printed with a spelling mistake – togħla spelled as togħla. The billboard was quickly replaced as soon as the spelling mistake was spotted.
7. Konrad Mizzi mocked in his own backyard (PN)
The Panama Papers may have taken place four years ago but Konrad Mizzi is still very much fair game in political campaigning. The PN erected two billboards depicting Mizzi’s role in the scandal throughout this campaign and in the Tourism Minister’s own street no less. Mizzi ended up commenting about the billboard himself, laughing it off by saying the PN could have used a better photo of him.
6. We do positive X and not negative Y (PL)
Repetition and consistency are key to successful political campaigns, and Labour has clearly mastered that old trick. A number of Labour’s billboards followed the same theme, pitching a generous government that wants to unite Malta against a negative Opposition that wants to break it apart. A clear and simple message; sometimes that’s all you need.
5. Joseph Muscat urging people to join him… again (PL)
In a clear strategy to make the most out of the Prime Minister’s immense popularity, the Labour Party is pitching this election as a choice between the leadership styles of Joseph Muscat and Adrian Delia.
If you are an ardent fan of Muscat, a photo of him staring into your soul from atop a billboard next to the words “Come join me again” will surely leave quite an impact.
4. The innovative handwritten billboard (PN)
In terms of design, the PN’s billboard with several handwritten wishes for Malta’s future was probably the most creative in Malta’s recent history. Extremely impactful in its simplicity.
3. The controversial cancer billboard (PN)
“Irrid li nirbħu fuq il-kanċer”.
Five words that sound uncontroversial in isolation but which gave rise to one of the most emotional debates of the campaign when they were plastered onto a PN billboard. Many people, including cancer patients, derided the message as offensive to people suffering from cancer while a PN candidate defended it by recounting her own late mother’s battle with the illness. The billboard’s message, advocating a European master plan to fight cancer, was lost in translation.
2. That facepalm emoji on a billboard (PL)
The PL fused the modern with the traditional in its first, and best, billboard of the campaign. As a quick response to the spelling mistake on the PN’s billboard (see point 8), the PL erected a mock billboard of the PN’s Flimkien Għal Pajjizna (Together for our Nation) slogan, but with the word Flimkien replaced by Kontra (against) and a tagline “Sorry, we made another mistake”.
However, what made the billboard was the addition of a face palm emoji, surely a first in Maltese politics.
1. The baby which was featured on the BBC (PN)
There are few debates as sensitive as the abortion one and the PN managed to tug at people’s heartstrings with a billboard showing a newborn baby and the pro-life slogan “I have a right to life”.
The billboard encapsulated the PN’s major campaign warning that the Labour Party is secretly in favour of abortion, a message that triggered a debate on the subject, ideologically ripping apart Partit Demokratiku just as it had done to Alternattiva Demokratika a few months prior.
The billboard also received international attention, with the BBC including it as part of a feature on Malta’s abortion debate.