In just a week’s time the country will be going to the polls, bringing to a close yet another political campaign. Politicians are very much aware this campaign is too close on the heels of the general election, and that the great majority of the population are simply tuning out all the political ‘noise’ that fills the papers and the airwaves. Everywhere we turn we bump into billboards, every letterbox we open is full of political brochures. It does get to be a bit too much at times.
So our aspiring representatives have taken to using special effects to gain our attention. First we had to contend with the terrifying “red line that cannot be crossed”. Simon Busuttil let us all know that the Socialists, Greens, Communists and Liberals had forced him to include “the opportunity to vote in local elections” in his report on Common Immigration Policy for the European Union.
This did not really create much furore, until an article appeared in The Times with the following quote from Dr Busuttil – “It would send the wrong message, that this is a free-for-all. It could also constitute a pull-factor and would give them the power to elect a government, especially if you consider that the last election was determined by only 1,500 votes.”
What people understood was – this will bring more illegal immigrants, this will make them more powerful, this will result in their overturning our government. The statement was calculated to trigger people’s basest fears.
All logic and reason flew out of the window, with people flocking online to express their shock, horror and absolute amazement in capital letters that illegal immigrants would now have the right to vote in our general elections.
The truly shocking thing, however, is that at no point in time did Simon Busuttil attempt to clarify the issue, namely that the amendment introduced referred only to local elections (i.e. elections for local councils) and legal immigrants – and that it was absolutely not the case that illegal immigrants would be voting in the general election. In addition, implementing it would be totally at the discretion of our own Government.
So what on earth was that entire hullabaloo about?
Is it really so threatening to have an American or Canadian who has settled in Malta and pays taxes in Malta vote to choose their local Mayor? Are we so scared of French or Italian migrants having a say in their localities? Goodness – they might actually end up influencing which playground gets upgraded, or which kerbs get maintained.
Once the hubbub died down and people started to lose interest again, we were treated to another big bang. In an interview MEP hopeful Frank Portelli hollered: “So do you agree with female circumcision? Their religion promotes female circumcision” – referring to Islam. What was he trying to say? That the genitals of Maltese women were under attack? My jaw dropped. What next? Is anyone who speaks in favour of treating these pour souls humanely be accused of promoting the butchery of female genitalia?
At that stage the Labour Party put up a pyrotechnic display of its own, ‘unveiling’ a judiciously edited sound clip, featuring Nationalist candidate Alex Perici Calascione talking to hunters about the letters, sent prior to the 2003 referendum and election by Eddie Fenech Adami, assuring them that joining the EU would have no impact on hunting and trapping – “Eddie Fenech Adami was either mad or wanted to take people for a ride. One or the other, there’s no other way of seeing it” – the clip ran.
Now if ever there was a quote that was bound to cause fireworks, this was it. Of course we quickly found out that Mr Perici Calascione had proceeded to justify the actions of Eddie Fenech Adami – “I’m certainly one of those who doesn’t think he was mad.”
The Labour Party then finally published the entire recording. But by then they had already had their fun.
Retribution was swift to strike. In the 8pm news bulletin on Monday we were informed that Lou Bondì had a scoop – we watched Bondiplus with bated breath, waiting for some important announcement relating to public policy, or possibly the economy. Result? Joseph and Michelle Muscat splurged €60,000 on two new cars. Huh? Scoop?
What’s the big scoop about the parents of twins buying a Kia Sportage, probably to have a boot big enough to lug around all the paraphernalia needed when you have a set of twins? I actually considered buying a Sportage myself last year, when I got pregnant with my third child. In the end I bought something even bigger, with a boot that could take two buggies and a bicycle.
It’s all a little depressing, no? The political parties think we are all idiots – they think they can supply us with pre-packaged opinions and that we will swallow everything they say, hook, line and sinker.
They are wrong. There’s a small but growing percentage of the electorate who are perfectly capable of reading in between the lines and forming their own opinions. People who know how to use the search button on Google to ferret out the facts, separating them from the fiction.
It is high time these people make their voices heard. It is only when the criticism becomes loud enough that the parties will take note. The message has to be loud and clear – stop treating us like idiots! We want a true political debate that is both proactive and constructive. We want an end to the politics of confusion and misinformation, an end to negative campaigning and scaremongering.
Convince us to vote for you because of the good things you have done and propose to do; and not because of the bad things you claim that the opposing party is responsible for. We do not want to vote to avoid calamity, we want to vote to promote prosperity. For goodness sake, can’t we have some clean politics for once?