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Wrestling with the hydra

It is very difficult to touch the real world again after having experienced a cultural bonanza as that offered by the Valletta International Baroque Festival. With the rousing crescendo of Handel’s Zadok the Priest still ringing in my ears, with regret I feel it my duty to make some objective observations about the general political situation. In my book it will be the party which will make the most sensible and doable cultural pledge that will get my support so I will wait and see.

So far the PL has come out of this smelling of roses
- Kenneth Zammit Tabona

Between one lot promising a secure future and the other lot assuring us that Malta belongs to all of us it is hardly surprising that the average voter is perplexed.

The PL pundits are going out of their way to assure us all that a change in government is not going to imply post electoral cataclysms while the PN pundits on the contrary do their level best to terrify us into believing that a PL in government will turn Malta upside down. The PN wants to retain the reins of government at all costs and, all being fair in love and war, paints a picture of ensuing doom and gloom should the floating voters opt to go Centre Left instead of Centre Right.

The PL assures us at every turn that they will be a government for all despite our individual political allegiances. While the PN hark back to 1998 electricity bills and pre 1987 PL horlickses, it seems that they forget that there are 19,000 new voters who in 1998 were mere toddlers and to whom anything that happened pre 1987 is antediluvian.

While we struggle to pay stupidly high and inexplicable energy bills and 35 per cent tax plus VAT plus all the hidden shavings and ratings, the super rich are laughing all the way to the bank while the officially ‘deprived’ will have nothing to worry about as they will not be charged for their energy bills and will not have to pay tax either. Everybody, whether a millionaire or a pauper, is entitled to free treatment at Mater Dei and then one wonders how unpleasant things like deficits can be contained.

At the end of the day the group that is hit hardest is the average salary earner who for a couple of thousand euro here and there oversteps the 35 per cent threshold and has to proportionally pay much more than someone earning five or six times as much while the rackets such as the one which entitles unmarried mothers with progeny of father unknown to benefits that outweigh all sense of family honour and religious propriety is draining our exchequer. Till these are contained one may sooner wrestle with the Hydra; unless you are Hercules of course.

After so long a period in government, the PN is promising change; which is inexplicable. Why change now? Hasn’t there been enough time for change in the last 25 years? The PL is promising to be all things to all men, assuring us that a PL government will guarantee a smooth transition without trauma and, so far, is unfazed by the systematic denigration campaign being waged on it by the PN. I suppose the PL has become immune by now. The underlying implication is that the PN maintains that it has the experience and wherewithal to govern Malta while the PL is inexperienced and hasn’t got the savoir faire to carry off such a challenge. Ergo is the PN implying that we should forever be a one-party state?

As we progress deeper and deeper into the electoral campaign flotsam and jetsam the accusations and mudslinging will only get worse and worse.

So far the PL has come out of this smelling of roses as Joseph Muscat’s words and actions have shown that with the exception of the ill-advised Franco Debono incident on Xarabank he is playing his cards right and keeping his cool despite the constant provocation. Even that particular incident, damaging as it may have been, was addressed with authority and despatch. Anġlu Farrugia was forced to bow out and Louis Grech brought in.

What is even better is that despite all the hype about Muscat having been against our EU membership, his years in Brussels have taught him a thing or two about rising over parochialism and electoral chicanery. We now have three out of four top political honchos who have been schooled in the civilised Brussels method; Joseph Muscat, Simon Busuttil and now Louis Grech. Maybe we have witnessed the death knell of verbal gladiatorial bouts on TV and the average Maltese politician will realise that he or she does not need to outshout, insult and heckle to impress a gallery which is becoming ever more irritated by such exasperating puerility.

Alfred Sant had made “the power of incumbency” into a buzzword in an attempt to explain why he lost one election after another. In fact incumbency is a double edged sword and, as Dr Sant surely knows, has been far more detrimental to the incumbents than the aspirants!

The classic case was post war Britain wherein Conservative hero Winston Churchill was voted out despite his having steered Britain successfully through one of the worst periods in its history. The man whose radio broadcasts about fighting on the beaches are still played today was ignominiously turned out of Number 10 without a qualm. Unfair? You bet it is; but that is how democracy is served as a rule.

So here we are, torn between one party’s promise of a secure future in a very insecure world and the other’s promise that Malta belongs to all of us and all that this implies, hoping that it will all end soon and that some time in the near future we will be able to resume our lives in a semblance of normality.

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