Saviour Balzan | Sunday, 24 May 2009
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Why people will protest and simply not vote

His antics have become intolerable. He is acting like a restless warrior who cannot be restrained and disciplined. He is a veritable Mintoffian loudmouth who waves the Nationalist flag and who has as Prime Minister someone who does not have the gall to ask him to stop being uncouth and coarse.
When last week one of Austin Gatt’s underlings, the public relations officer at Enemalta, wrote in insinuating the Israeli company that lost the bid on the Enemalta extension was a “MaltaToday client”, I sent the letter back telling him to remove his inference. Mr Alex Tranter, the politically-appointed Nationalist who runs Enemalta according to his master’s whims, should know better. Mr Tranter knows that neither I nor anyone here are on the Israelis’ payroll.
Dr Gatt believes that anyone who criticises him and his government is either a Labourite or better still on the payroll of companies that have failed in their bids to win tenders. He lashes out at his critics like the creature out of Alien, the film.
Well, Austin Gatt – the rottweiler in the Nationalist government – should come to terms with the fact that sometimes reportage takes place without any grand design. Just because the Maltese government led by Lawrence Gonzi has lost all its credibility when it comes to procurement procedures, does not mean that those who criticise it are mercenaries and agents in the employ of the enemy.
I will not go into the Enemalta saga where Lawrence Gonzi, the so-called crusader for the environment, has opted for a dirty technology instead of a cleaner one. Neither will I enter into the merits of raising the gaseous emission thresholds, right in the middle of this tendering procedure, when everyone else in the world was doing the exact opposite.
Gonzi has only one personal political asset: his impressive ability to use his gift of the gab. Take that away and he is nothing. Otherwise anyone with a political mind could have long appreciated what a hopeless Prime Minister he is.
When this column meekly suggested in 2004 that there was a better candidate to run the Nationalist party, Gonzi’s boys – led by Alan Camilleri, the present-day Malta Enterprise chairman whose un-Gonzi lifestyle surely doesn’t fit within the Christian-democratic mould – told his lieutenants in the ministries to boycott commercially MaltaToday.
When that failed to destroy this newspaper they tried other means. When that failed, they resorted to the suggestion that we have as clients Israeli companies.
Today, Gatt and Gonzi know that there is no other independent newspaper willing to stand up and be counted. The Times and The Independent are safely in the hands of the PN and all the others are led by the political parties. The audiovisual media are either controlled by state-appointed individuals or managed by the political parties themselves.
In 2003 this newspaper carried an editorial which called on people to give their number one vote to the Nationalist party. European Union accession was crucial to the future of this country. In 2008 this newspaper asked everyone to decide according to their conscience.
In 2009, this newspaper and its sister newspaper don’t believe we should be telling people what to do. The right to vote, the right to abstain or the right to decide freely is part of the democratic process.
But the time has come for any level-headed person to ask themselves whether voting in such an election makes any sense. The PN has lost its soul: Does it represent Nationalist values?
Malta’s political system is linked to one simple consideration, that is of guaranteeing and perpetuating the furtherance of those individuals, and companies and families that live and make their money thanks to the present political patronage and nepotism they enjoy.
The European elections are one way of sending a clear message that this must stop. Austin Gatt will argue we cannot have Joseph Muscat or someone like Arnold Cassola prevail, or that we cannot have Labourites or other candidates succeed where Nationalists candidates can.
But frankly, does it make any difference to any of you if the next MEP is the ineffectual Glenn Bedingfield and bare-faced David Casa? Does anyone in their heart of hearts believe that any of these candidates will improve their personal situation? All the candidates vying for election, without exception, are eyeing the pay package that comes with the position. All of them are looking at the lucrative earnings they will make from our national contributions, in a situation where we are fast contributing more than receiving from the EU.
And all this talk of pressing the right button is indeed a whole load of hogwash. Because whether we press a button, or whether all the documents are translated or not in Maltese, nothing is going to change the fact that our local political situation is determined by what is decided at Castille.
In their five years in Brussels, the Maltese European parliamentary candidates may have acted in a correct and proper manner but as we all know they have little or no impact on what happens on the ground in Malta.
What happens on the ground in Malta is determined by the political decisions taken by the triumvirate that run this government: the Gonzi, Gatt and Fenech triumvirate. Together they have sowed policies which have led to incompetent decisions such as the one at Enemalta which involved amateurish and ridiculous hedging agreements and which led to exaggerated increments in tariffs for families and businesses.
After 22 years of mismanagement at Enemalta, Austin Gatt has woken up to the realities of bad governance and decides to turn the table on us. Every time someone hints at bad governance, Gonzi’s wayward general hits back with a vengeance reminiscent of the Mintoff years. And when Gatt cannot napalm his adversaries or critics, Gonzi uses Richard Cachia Caruana, the man who wants to become Malta’s next EU commissioner. RCC acts as he has always acted, secretively calling on his army of sycophants to dish out bile and hate from their blogs and columns. They incite hatred and attempt to decimate any critics.
Only last week, I was appalled to hear the same group of Nationalist diehards put forward this ridiculous justification for voting for the Nationalists:
(To be read aloud in sing-song English) –
“How could anyone vote for a man (Joseph Muscat) who names his children Etoile and Soleil?”
Which is the standard rhetorical hogwash any English-speaking snob relishes in quoting to validate their electoral choice for Gonzi, as if it was as natural as choosing whether to upholster the sofa in see-through plastic or not.
Now debatable as Muscat’s choice for his kids’ names may be, who the f*** cares? If Gonzi’s hold on power is now dependent on what names Labour kids are given, then surely politics is no longer worthy of mention.
Probably nobody has ever heard the names of children born to proud Qormi Nationalists, because thanks to the political blessing bestowed upon them, it is perfectly acceptable to be a hamalla from Qormi, complete with an arse like an Indonesian wok and a bust the size of an airliner’s fuselage. All acceptable, because as long as you think Gonzi is the reincarnation of Maria Goretti, you’re never as bad as a Labourite.


The other day I met up with a delegation from the OSCE that monitors the European elections. I was as forthright with them as I could possible be.
“The problem is that the Nationalists have kept Malta in a post-1987 mould, when they replaced an ageing, violent and corrupt Labour government. They opened up the economy and they introduced pluralism and put an end to violence.
“But instead of installing a system based on meritocracy they crowned nepotism. Individuals close to the party were placed in every prospective nerve centre, from PBS to the Broadcasting Authority, inside parastatal companies, MEPA and any other agency. Even ambassadors have to be leaning to the PN. This system has been retained and not changed. The government has created an army of gladiators who have become so financially dependent on this government that they have been led to believe that there is no alternative to it.
“They take money from big business and therefore avoid regulating party financing. They refuse to bring forward electoral reform and they have operated an electoral system which makes the success of any third party an impossibility. The small electoral difference between the two parties makes it next to impossible for them to pronounce themselves clearly on any issue.
“So every issue becomes a major battle. The hunting of a dove in Spring becomes a national issue because a lobby group of a few hundreds can sway the outcome at an election. The same applies to the issue of divorce. So many unnecessary matters take centre-stage because they are championed by small fundamentalist groupings that can sway voters emotionally. For example the Gift for Life posse became a national movement even though their leaders could easily fit inside the booth of a Mini Cooper.
“The political campaigning is all negative. There is no discussion on content or policies. The parties use an American approach, spewing bile on the blogs and billboards which herald mistakes on both sides of the camp. The campaign is about who pressed the wrong button and who said the wrong word, and who dresses up like a hooligan or what was said or not supposed to have been said in a meeting with hunters. All candidates flout the law on limits in campaign spending and no action is ever taken against them.
“The crucial political issues such as the auditor’s report on the reprehensible direct orders issued by the Prime Minister at Mater Dei before the last election are ridiculed by Gonzi and simply ignored by Joe Citizen. Most people have come to accept the abuse of power and see corruption as endemic. Most of them are too concerned with their personal situation. The turnout this time will be lower and many Nationalists will stay home to send a message of protest to their party. But Gonzi may choose to do nothing and simply slog on.”


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