In a move that continues to prove Malta’s only true celebrities are politicians (and that: wow, our island really don’t understand the internet), Joseph Muscat is being begged to stay on as Prime Minister via Maltese social media’s latest obsession: the petition. But despite the masses who are no doubt signing it as you read, if you really think about it, it’s kind of insulting to him.
While the push is being spearheaded by diehard fans (creator Tony Zarb is one piece of bubblegum away from a Helga-Pataki-closet-bust), it seems to have eluded most supporters that, after being the driving force behind two record-breaking electoral landslides, Muscat is definitely not the sort of man to base a massive personal and national decision on the political version of influencers asking their fans to vote in a rigged Instagram story.
Zarb’s closet doesn’t lead to Narnia, but it does feature a JM-sized version of this.
If you’ve followed PL’s electoral campaigns over the past couple of years, a small nagging voice at the back of your mind may have cast a slight shadow of a doubt as to whether it was Joseph’s people who started this petition, with him also knowing about it all along.
While this is probably not the case, the fact that it’s a possibility (and a smart move if he really planned to backtrack on earlier promises to call it quits after 2017’s election) shows that Muscat’s legacy as a marketing machine will outlive his milestones as a beloved politician.
Regardless of who started the petition, or what their intentions were, those who are currently signing it are unwittingly living up to Malta’s second favourite mantra (after: “uwijja, mhux xorta”)… and that is “issa ngħidlu jien”.
Whether you’re queuing for McDonald’s at 3am and the drunk guy in front of you is holding up the line because he’s convinced they’ll let him order the breakfast meal, or your friend just so happens to knows someone who can make a parking ticket disappear by speaking to the right lawyer, it’s always “issa ngħidlu jien”.
From politics to supermarket bargains, Maltese people love to do that slow head nod and subtle wink to make sure you know they’ve got some sort of sway over the situation.
What’s frustrating about petitions like this isn’t that they might not work. It’s actually the sour aftertaste of its implications should it be successful.
Say the petition signees get their best case scenario, and Joseph Muscat chooses to stay on by popular demand (as if his popularity wasn’t already clear enough from previous General Elections – handing Muscat this petition would be like giving Mariah a puppy just to see its ears twitch with the whistle notes). Do you really want a man who was halfway out of the door before you grabbed him by the coattails and begged him to stay and run the country?
Imagine if Destiny’s Child released an album with Beyoncé only singing along because Michelle threatened to end her own life if she didn’t. It would probably sell less copies than Madonna’s latest release (no, I haven’t let that go yet). In relationships, that kind of coercion is considered abusive.
You might love the work Muscat has done, but despite the never-ending list of (usually invented) reasons politicians give for why they’re candidating, “I felt guilty, lol” has never been used in the history of democracy.
Just like we do with the actors and singers we see on TV, the (sometimes) charismatic nature of politicians makes us feel like they’re friends of ours who do us a huge favour by working in parliament.
But when it comes down to it, it’s just their job – they’re there to represent their constituency to the best of their ability… not to help us sell sticker albums.
While I’m sure Joseph is flattered by the response, it’s demeaning to the massive team who’s been working with him since day one to be concerned that if one individual steps down, all of Malta is suddenly going to slip into another recession.
From policy makers to campaign strategists, It wasn’t just Joseph who put in the time. A lot of people, past and present from all sides of the political spectrum, helped create the Malta you’re sure needs this one man so badly.
If you’re ready to trust Muscat to stay on for another four years, why not just trust that the party he’s rebuilt can stand up on its own?