Raphael Vassallo | Sunday, 02 November 2008

How to tell there’s a European election round the corner

Something’s afoot. You can feel it on the airwaves. You can detect it in the intensification of partisan tomfoolery. And you can gauge it by the sudden increase in salivary gland activity among Malta’s army of professional MEP butt-lickers.
Yes indeed, folks. We must be gearing up for an MEP election.
Hey wait, where are you all going? Yes, yes, I’m, aware that it’s all a con really; that after being promised a “new way of doing politics”, it turned out to be just like every other election in Maltese history: i.e., we were all herded to the polling booth and then herded back home again, like the good, dutiful little Comrades we are.
But still, some of you might be wondering: how does Raphael know all these things, anyway? How does he get all this priceless inside information about events which have been widely publicised and anticipated for years?
Well, I’ll let you in on my secret. The fruit of years of research and at least one week watching far too much Saturday Night Live on Youtube... here it is: your very own guide on how to tell that a European election might be held at any point in the next 12 months.

1) When the Nationalist Party suddenly starts reporting things that happened five years ago

Ah yes, NET News. The frontrunner in smart, state of the art media excellence. The station you can always rely on, to find out what the government wants you to think.
But watching NET News has brought home to me a number of belated realisations over the past few weeks.
The first and most useful is that the old “two fingers down the throat” method for self-induced vomiting (which, as we all know, can be a life-saver in case of accidental ingestion of liquid hypochloride, or deliberate ingestion of copious quantities of Vodka Red Bull) is now largely redundant.
Should you require a quick and expedient way to empty your digestive tract of all noxious substances, simply switch onto Net TV at approximately 7.45pm, and let the insipid, do-goodie voice of some suitably po-faced, genetically engineered Gonzi-PNewscaster do all the work for you.
Writhe and groan in intestinal agony, as “public consultation” exercises are portrayed for all the world as though some form of public consultation had actually taken place.
Convulse in abdominal spasms, as the government’s recent humiliation at the hands of the European Commissioner for Competition is reported under the heading: “Commissioner Praises Government’s Privatisation Plans”.
Take a deep swig of that Orange Blossom Water, as one news item after another informs you of the inexorable rise of the gainfully employed; of the endless environmental successes of the Ministry of Resourcefulness and Ruthless Annihilation (MRRA); or of the social partners’ intense satisfaction at the government hike in utility tariffs – after which, the Chamber of This and the Association of That all reportedly waltzed out of the MCESD meeting to the tune of “Please, Sir, Can You Kick Us All A Little Harder?” – naturally, all based on irrefutable statistics brought to you by the government’s own infallible statistics office, the NSO (which stands for “Numbers. Sort Of...”)

But while you’re busy retching, lurching, and wondering where you left your own copy of Francis Zammit Dimech’s 1986 best-seller “The Untruth Game – Political Broadcasting Under the Labour Regime”, you might just notice that there has been a tiny but significant shift in the rhetoric emerging from Herbert Ganado Street, Per Carita’, these days.

That’s right, folks! It’s all about Labour’s Opposition to Europe. Oh, never mind if we’ve all already known that since before the first Napoleonic War. Don’t be so selfish. For all you know, there may be one or two voters out there who have meanwhile experienced a mild concussion... or undergone full frontal lobotomy... or developed chronic amnesia after a protracted brain fever, or on account of ingesting various noxious substances of the kind described above... or heck, they might have just plain forgotten... but never fear! Heroically, selflessly and without a care in the world for its own credibility as a news medium, in swings NET News like Tarzan to the rescue: reminding us day in, day out, come rain or shine, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, in sickness and in health – mostly in sickness – and until death do us part, that... hey!

The Malta Labour Party was against EU accession in 2003!

Really? You don’t say. And there I was, thinking that Alfred Sant had danced around on that stage on 9 March because he was so deliriously happy that the Yes vote had actually won. Well, thank GonziPN that in spite of its undeclared bankruptcy, NET News is still around to set the record straight for ignorant amnesiacs like myself.
For where would we all be, without such serious journalism in this country?

2) When everybody suddenly wants to be your ‘friend’

Under normal circumstances, friends are useful things to possess. But with the advent of Facebook, all this has changed.
On the world’s largest online socialist... I mean, socialising network, people can become your friends for a wide very variety of reasons: genuine friendship not always featuring prominently in the list.
For instance, your latest “friend” can turn out to be the human equivalent of a Trojan Horse: snooping around your uploaded photos; guffawing at your embarrassing moves on the dancefloor; or sniggering at that time when you unwisely impersonated Michael Jackson at a school reunion...
Hang on, that’s my own Pictures Folder I’m looking at... Anyhow... um... like I was saying, Facebook has revolutionised the world of online espionage, and turned voyeurism into a profitable art-form.
But all this is nothing, compared to the barrage of Friend requests, complete with inevitable identity confusion, you can expect to receive no sooner does a European Parliamentary election pop up on the horizon.
To give you a small indication of how this online revolution works: the other day I received a request asking me whether I’d be interested in becoming a “Supporter of Sharon”.
How very nice of him, I thought. After all, Ariel Sharon was Prime Minister of Israel, a country I’ve always wanted to visit; and let’s face it; it’s not often that prominent world politicians take time out of a busy coma to enlist the services of yours truly for their dramatic comeback to the Knesset.
So I eagerly clicked on the ‘Confirm’ button – only to find out I’d inadvertently joined the backstage campaign to elect Sharon Ellul Bonici to the European parliament.
Needless to add, panic ensued.

3) When people’s surnames suddenly grow longer

The word is out: chances of success in European Parliamentary elections increase in direct proportion to the number of barrels incorporated into one’s surname.
The first to prove this unlikely hypothesis was John Attard Montalto, the Labour MEP who (let’s face it) was unlikely to ever get elected for any other reason.
But get elected he did, and while it is generally accepted that his candidature originated largely as a result of having run against Alfred Sant for the MLP leadership (literally – he was wearing a jogging suit at the time), Attard Montalto has since proved to be more than just a double-barrelled surname the party wanted out of the way as quickly as possible.
From what I understand, John Attard Montalto’s idea for a Parliamentary Sub-Committee for Luxury Cruises in the Caribbean has been a runaway success among European politicians, providing MEPs of all political hues with untold opportunities to unwittingly absent themselves from votes deemed crucial by their political groupings. Likewise, his efforts to inject both style and substance to the EU Directive on Sartorial Excellence Among Commissioners is widely perceived to be the secret behind the sudden improvement in political attire in all 27 member states... look under Neelie Kroes for further details.
But Attard Montalto’s reign as Malta’s longest-surnamed MEP is likely to be short-lived, for a new and unfeasibly long variety of the multiple Maltese appellation has now officially entered the lists.
Last time round, it was just plain old “Roberta Tedesco Triccas”. But one wedding later, her name has inexpicably expanded into Roberto Metsola Tedesco Triccas... making John’s measly Attard Montalto suddenly look a little... well... common.
Make no mistake: if Roberta keeps going forth and multiplying her nomenclature like that, her manifesto might take up the entire telephone directory by June.
If I were Attard Montalto, I'd use my remaining months as an MEP to lobby for the introduction of polygamy. Then I'd marry every available multi-surnamed European aristicrat on offer, and then... maybe I'd go on a cruise. Yes. A nice cruise, far away from all this madness...


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