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The end of the affair

As expected, the final lap of the electoral campaign has been characterised by more dirt – this time, allegations regarding the Labour leader’s personal life. The Nationalists got wind of the new dirt spreading very early on and washed its hands of it. Who started it? Only the perpetrators can tell. But this was merely the latest and worst shot in a campaign which has descended to the pits in its tone.

But, even at this late stage and though its voting intentions are largely decided, the electorate would like to know what the parties truly stand for

With five days to go, two of them supposedly silent, there is still time for more dirt to be thrown. Will it? Those who made it a point to be as negative as they could about the Labour Party and converts to the cause Joseph Muscat mapped out may still come up with fresh bile.

It will hurt those at whom it is addressed. It will not affect the election result.

The result is set and almost sealed. In my experience over six electoral campaigns, last minute waverers are few and far between.

They do not total to a number which sways how many candidates a party elects in a particular constituency.

Whether the result is what is being predicted by the opinion polls – a clear Labour victory – remains to be seen. The number of “don’t know” reflected in the polls is such as to make predictions quite hazardous.

The active days left in the campaign should be used by the parties to restore faith in the political system. Granted, The Times’ Big Debate did bring a welcome new tone to the campaign. It was conducted in a very civilised manner. Subsequently stridency was reduced. Campaigning sobered up a bit.

Yet the prevalent feeling is still one of outright negative thrusts. That comes from using language that is intended to destroy rather than to criticise.

In the remaining space one would like to see the political leaders – pointless to say the parties – summarise their position in realistic ways. It is useless to point
to the weekend press, which carried interviews with them. At this late stage they were still skirting the issues platform.

Lawrence Gonzi, who has become arrogance personified, stuck to his mantra that it would be wrong to “experiment” with Labour – only another Nationalist government can deliver good results.

Joseph Muscat, on his part, stuck to the claim that only Labour can bring about a change in direction by mobilising all those willing to work with it.

These positions are all well and good. But, even at this late stage and though its voting intentions are largely decided, the electorate would like to know what the parties truly stand for. For example, a gap in the campaigning has been any serious recognition that we totter on the brink of very rough times given the situation in the eurozone and also the broader European Union.

Italy has gone into an even darker scenario with an election where the electorate told the big coalitions “a curse on both your houses”. Unless stability returns to Italy so that a sane government could find the balance between structural reform and the limits of tolerance the people can show to it, the break-up of the eurozone cannot be excluded.

In the broader context the possibility that the UK will eventually leave the Union grows by the day.

To the political leaders, these threats to our economic framework were not important enough to make them leave their template approach to each other and for a change tell the Maltese electorate that they are aware of them and have plans how to deal with them.

It is unlikely that the leaders will take this matter up in what’s left of the campaign. Nevertheless, whoever wins will have to grapple with these threats, more so than with each other. Next Sunday’s result will not be the end of the affair. Only the beginning.

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