Italy’s threat to Malta
We’re not the only ones living through an election whirlwind. Italy went to the polls yesterday and will continue voting today.
The electoral campaign over there was relatively muted, important as it is. It certainly was not nearly as deafening as the campaign in Malta.
This has now bored everybody stiff. The campaign itself, spread over nine weeks, had already started to weaken resolve to show interest as the main parties rolled out their proposals daily.
These proposals are now all but forgotten. Instead, the campaign has descended to pit-level mud-slinging.
At the core of the mud-slinging there is a rational objective: to drum home the need to keep corruption out of politics.
But each side simply builds on this rationale to accuse the other side of being mired in corruption.
Putting together the two sides of the coin it would appear that, other than for Alternattiva Demokratika, the whole of our political system is peopled by corrupt politicians, what with illegal commissions, gifts and dubious friendships and with a reluctance to pass on to the police second-hand information about drug dealing on a party club scale.
God forbid that it was truly like that. The underlying reality is that our main parties, the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party, both stand for democracy and clean politics. It is only a few bad apples that give politics a bad name.
But that name is, in turn, overemphasised by the good apples, who do not seem to have further purely political arguments to put forward. They seem to have forgotten their own issues.
In the remaining days to the election, seasoned observers forecast the parties will draw upon further mud to sling at each other, which leaves little space for them to regurgitate what they stand for as an offer of real choice to the electorate.
The Prime Minister’s wheeze to go for a long campaign seems to be paying off for him as a partisan leader – the gap between Nationalists and Labour is closing.
In terms of the country’s interests, uncertainty is not paying any dividends. In terms of democracy, it is a loser in the absence of honest political debate to permit the undecided to make up their minds and, thereby, decide the election result.
Italy’s electoral campaign has not been squeaky clean, either. It cannot be, especially with Silvio Berlusconi once more moving towards the heart of it.
At least there they know what the election is about, although they may not make the right decision, throwing the country into a crisis which might reach Malta as well.
The favourite to win the election remains Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the centre left, who, with his relative majority, would have to go for a coalition, possibly with outgoing technocratic Prime Minister Mario Monti, if his group gets enough votes to be represented.
Nevertheless, as the campaign moved towards its last stage, Berlusconi began catching up with Bersani. It is not excluded that his party will be the one that gains a relative majority. In that case, it too would have to put together a coalition. Berlusconi has promised not to be Prime Minister but he will be firmly in the engine room.
He has already made promises to undo Monti’s restructuring work. In that scenario, the possibility will grow that Italy will deepen the eurozone crisis and might eventually have to leave the European Union. In that case, various political analysts and euro watchers believe it could lead to the break-up of the euro currency and of the Union itself.
This hypothesis is frightening in its general implications. It is also frightening in specific regard to Malta, which stands to lose from EU or eurozone instability.
Which makes it all the more necessary for the winner of the March 9 contest to be able to form a government that can focus on domestic affairs and a corruption-free environment, certainly, but which would also be capable of steering Malta through the threatening EU turmoil.
Rather than upping the ante with more divisive mud-slinging and negative politics, the main contestants might try to reassure a tired electorate that they have that firmly in mind.
That will not come about with more dirt digging and flinging.