Almost a year before we were told it would happen, we’re having an election. So far we’ve been hounded with ġewwa/barra banners and an impenetrable sea of red vs blue. But now it’s time to take a serious look at what lies ahead.
It was just six months ago that instead of our own political drama, we watched as the US Presidential campaign reached its historic climax – putting into office a man who many people feared, and many laughed at. The phrase “Make America Great Again!” had been parodied the world over – jeered at for its hyper-nationalism and repellent self-confidence.
But ask yourself if you can remember a more stand-out, allegiance-indicating slogan in recent politics. That silly red cap – which looked even sillier when worn by an ash-blonde, over-tanned, raging Republican – became a symbol of national determination. It said: no matter how silly this seems, we mean it. And it worked.
In 2013 Malta’s Labour Party’s campaign slogan, and overall identity, had a similar effect. Its impact was slightly different. Instead of asking people to decide what side they were ultimately on, it offered a seemingly forsaken solution – that actually we could all share in the greater good.
It stuck. And it did exactly what a campaign logo needed to do. It gave its supporters that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when someone tells you “everything will be okay,” exactly when you need them to. It gave its critics something to mock for years to come, so that still – till today – whenever the government does anything they don’t like “Malta tagħna ilkoll eh!” is their go-to line of sarcasm.
What it did have in common with the Trump slogan was that it ensured people that they hadn’t been forgotten, and that a different – not even touching the notion of ‘better’ – future lay ahead. And that’s exactly what the nation wanted to hear at that point in time.
Yes, it did remind us all of one of the most successful political logos of the past decade – the Obama 2008 campaign logo. But so what? credit to whoever recognised that this brand of sentimentality would totally strike a chord with a public which was in desperate want of hope.
On the flip side, PN’s campaign identity spoke of a continuation of everything that had come before. It represented a promise of dependability and serious, hard work. Even the word ‘sod‘ felt heavy and uninspiring. There was nothing cool about it.
Cut to 2017 – yesterday. A snap election announced following what can safely be called one of the country’s most dramatic and scandalous political chapters in our history. The news, although expected, elicited a wave of reactions from the public. Fervent solidarity, collective eye-rolling, anger, disbelief, and even apathy.
So you would think that such a momentous and important election would produce logos that came emblazoned with unshakable resolve, bursting conviction, even tyrannical determination.
You’d be wrong.
Instead what we have are logos that represent a hasty, slapdash election – called to save the country from a current crisis, rather than to present what it is that we need for our future.
And because we are all so naturally blinded at the moment by the political sagas that will not easily abate, it has become difficult and even unnatural for us to say – hey, wait a minute, what are you actually offering us here?
Thankfully, these logos are so weak that they can serve to remind us to ask this question.
Aside from using free, laughable fonts, questionable layouts, and tired graphics – the logos each provide limiting visions. They are both capitalising on a crisis without offering an indication of what can be changed.
One logo (Labour Party) is asking us to put ourselves on an indeterminate “pause” and think of how well the country has done so far. Kind of like when you know a relationship is over and you tell yourself to think of the good days when everything felt perfect. It insults our intelligence and betrays a total disregard for what this election should bring to the Maltese people.
The other (Nationalist Party) is so limiting it even has a fullstop at the end of it. It says – Muscat or Malta. Without in any way indicating what kind of Malta we can hope to see if we choose it. It has a distinct feeling of survivalist politics, when what we need is something that looks beyond what has marred us so far.
What’s more, the fact that you have to do a double-take to even tell the two logos apart, does not bode well for what’s still to come in the campaign. It gives a strong sense that both Parties will be flogging the same rotten horse, that everyone can smell anyway, for the next five weeks.
Malta does deserve better than this. It’s very easy to say – they’re just logos. And they are. But amidst the hell we’ve been through for the past few weeks, we needed something more.
We needed our own silly, red hat and whatever that might have represented. Let’s hope it will show up somehow throughout this short campaign.