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Desirable levels of political maturity

The recent agreement by both major political parties on the nomination of George Abela for the post of President of the Republic of Malta is a significant milestone on the road towards maturity in all aspects of politics in the Maltese islands. However, a lot remains to be done in this field if we want to reach the levels of political maturity in more advanced countries.

Starting with Maltese political parties, it makes sense that these should cooperate as much as possible in the national interest. This does not mean going against their political agenda or their political ideology.

It does mean, however, seeking the wider national good over narrow partisan interests. I, for one, have always believed that the political parties should follow a policy of close cooperation on such important issues as security, health and education.

Issues such as the ones mentioned are too important to be reduced to matters of political controversy just for the sake of narrow political advantage. Each individual political party has its own political vision on the way to do things but a policy based on cooperation with other political parties instead of one based on confrontation is not only in the national interest, it is also in its own interest. People today are educated enough to want a better type of politics. They are tired of the politics of confrontation, which only serve to retard our country's development.

Political maturity also requires that people become critical enough to see through any attempt at political manipulation by the political parties. Unfortunately, this is where I believe we are still quite backward in this country. It is a fact that there is still a sizeable part of the Maltese population which can be manipulated easily by the political media. Let me mention one blatant case that illustrates this fact.

Remember the infamous controversy created over the Labour Party's "reception class" proposal before the last general election? This was a sound educational proposal based on the latest research. Yet, the Nationalist Party manipulated the issue to the extent that it even created panic in the minds of many parents who swallowed hook, line and sinker the blatantly false statement that Labour (PL) was proposing a "repeaters' class"! This is a case where political manipulation for the purpose of narrow partisan interests destroyed the possibility of a better future for many Maltese children.

Political maturity also entails eliminating character assassination from all aspects of politics. It is a fact that public figures have to accept public criticism as part and parcel of their everyday life. Anybody who does not wish to be publicly criticised should desist from entering public life. However, criticism is one thing but character assassination is another. There is nothing illegal in continuously attacking a political opponent but to present a picture that is always totally negative, that demonises a particular political opponent, borders on the unethical and immoral.

Need I mention the cases of Alfred Sant and Jason Micallef? These are examples of the political manipulation of public opinion at its worst. To present a particular opponent in a negative light, day after day, month after month, and to make it seem as if the person is the problem and not what s/he represents is simply not on if we want to ever achieve political maturity in this country. Dr Sant's case is now history, so I will concentrate on the case of the PL general secretary.

After the PL's 2008 general election defeat, the Nationalist media turned its guns on Mr Micallef. Incredibly, in a matter of weeks, it managed to seriously damage his reputation of competency and efficiency to the extent that even some Labourites, who should have known better, turned against him. Indeed, one correspondent from Mellieħa continues his anti-Jason Micallef campaign to the present day! What many people should have asked themselves is: Would the PL have come so close to winning the 2008 general election had it not been for the excellent work and tireless efforts of Mr Micallef and his team? The opposite was the case with many people although the PL delegates, to their credit, saw through this deceitful political manipulation and re-elected Mr Micallef to the post he held before.

Let me make it clear that I am also against the negative manner in which news was, until some time ago, presented by the PL media. Indeed, I am glad to note a great improvement here. We cannot go on having the Nationalist government being presented as unable to do anything positive and commendable. Political maturity also entails giving praise where praise is due, even to your political opponents.

Yes, Maltese political parties seem to have finally started moving in the right direction.

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