Cover design credit: Peter Magro.
This election is bringing out the worst in everybody. It’s like when Apple launches a new iPhone only to unveil another one a few months later. Whether you’re sticking to your old phone, buying the new one, or just bitching about it, everyone’s pissed off. And those who will always love or hate Apple no matter what just become even more intolerable and boisterous than their usual annoying selves.
But unlike a new iPhone, you can’t just ignore an election – especially here in Malta. You’re forced to take a stand, preferably a strong one. And you definitely have to vote. Otherwise you’re failing to do your duty and letting the other side win – because you always have a side, irrespective of your ability to think critically. After all, you were born into a side, whether you like it or not. And that brings us to the first problem of this election.
1. This time round, it’s all about which side you’re born into
Anyone expecting a hardcore Labourite to change their vote this time round is dreaming. This is just not going to happen. Nobody who feels a blood connection to a party that only just got into power after 25 years of trying is going to give up after just four years into the legislature. The thought alone of having to hear Nationalists go on about how Labour once again failed to a full term is enough to get even the most latent of Labourites to the polling booth.
The same is obviously true of the Nationalists. You might have been able to argue with your parents that Labour deserved a shot in 2013, when it finally presented itself as an even slicker version of the Nationalist Party. But there’s no explaining why you’re not at a mass meeting today when the foundations of democracy are at stake and we’re basically thrust into the height of the 80s again – or so we’re told.
But if reds will vote red and blues will vote blue, why do we even need an election campaign? That brings us to the second problem.
2. If you’re not on any side, then every party thinks you’re up for sale
An election campaign in Malta is basically a 30-day episode of teleshopping but instead of porcelain dolls and appliances made in dodgy parts of the world, we have porcelain politicians selling used and new ideas. And for many, this is the best part of an election campaign. When else would you get both PN and Labour to agree on legalising weed, introducing gay marriage, and – lest we piss off the bird-killing community – turning hunting into even more of a free-for-all?
If you think the parties look desperate when they promise 500,000 new jobs, free childcare even for the childless and a new public holiday every week – it’s because they are. They are desperate for those tens of thousands of single-issue voters who might be willing to discard the premise of this election altogether and take the opportunity to vote in an ultra-corrupt or totally unprepared party (depending on which side you’re on) as long as they’ve promised an extra €200 off their bills.
Naturally, if you’re taken in by any of the proposals, you’re shunned for being selfish. And if you decide you’re not up for sale, you still have to make your mind over who to vote for. Which brings us to the next problem.
3. If you want to be really principled about it, you still aren’t given the full details you need to take a decision
Let’s not forget that this election was called because of allegations that the Prime Minister (his wife, to be precise) is part of a wide corruption and/or money laundering ring stretching all the way from Panama to Dubai, to Azerbaijan. The problem is that we have big allegations (unsubstantiated by actual documents, even if furnished by all the contextual facts) and big denials (also unsubstantiated by actual documents that can exculpate the protagonists) – but nobody is in a position to actually call it.
The Police Commissioner is busy fielding jokes about eating too much rabbit, the Attorney General is busy telling reporters ‘this ain’t my job bitches’, the Magistrate is forced to take an already very complicated investigation worldwide, and we’re expected to decide based on who we find more credible: Daphne Caruana Galizia or Joseph Muscat.
Which takes us back to number one, the tribalism of it all: you’re either blue or red – and that’s all that matters.
So where do we go from here?
If you’re part of the one per cent who just isn’t having it – there are a few things you can do:
- Keep pushing for the truth about Egrant
- Try find a decent candidate and hope he/she/they will be contesting on your district
- Lobby for your best ideas and hope both parties promise them in an act of desperate vote-catching
- Take a snap decision and hold your breath until the next iPhone comes out
- Try to stay above the hysteria until you’re sure it’s time to get mad
Alternatively, you can just curl into a ball and wait for the election to pass at which point you can go back living in this #normalnotnormal country. And pray to the God of Financial Services for our economy to remain afloat after all is said and done.