Let’s recognise change
The year 2013 will be remembered as the year Malta went to the polls in a big way, with a bang I dare say. The landslide victory secured by the Labour Party, garnering an unprecedented nine seat majority in the House of Representatives, was historic in its own right and nothing short of astounding.
Commendable political maturity was displayed by the leaders of both main parties, as Lawrence Gonzi was quick to respond to what overwhelmingly emerged from the ballot boxes by conceding defeat and wishing his opponent well.
Meanwhile, Joseph Muscat as incumbent Prime Minister, gravely recognised the increased responsibility which the sheer size of the mandate entrusted to him entailed and appealed for national unity.
That the Nationalist Party was trailing in the polls throughout the long electoral campaign and much before that was pretty much well known, but nobody could ever have predicted the abyss which would end up separating it from the Labour Party.
Given the result, Gonzi did the honourable thing by formally declaring that he would not be putting forward his candidature in the forthcoming leadership election, which the PN statute requires be held within three months from a general election defeat, while at the same time maintaining stability by retaining the post until that time.
While many might express surprise at the outcome, given the economic stability which the Nationalist Government, to its credit, undoubtedly procured for the country in spite of the prevailing depression which surrounds us, the electorate has shown that there are certain basic home truths which a government can only ignore at its own peril.
In January 2012 I penned an article in The Times titled It’s Not Just The Economy, Stupid. Though I was commenting at the time on the perceived lack of a parliamentary majority, I think the message I was trying to convey ought to have been clear enough for those capable of reading between the lines.
I will leave it up to seasoned political analysts to undertake the necessary post-mortem, dissect and identify the causes of the Nationalist Party’s electoral defeat.
While the Labour Party evidently ran what has been described as a slick campaign, much of that campaign was actually run for Labour by the Nationalists themselves.
Perceived sheer arrogance, virtual unaccountability, internal fighting, debilitating bureaucracy and sometimes even utter contempt for John Citizen to name but a few – leading many Nationalist sympathisers to themselves pull the bath plug on their own party.
But perhaps the most salient feature of the 2013 general election has been the supremacy of the electorate, to whom every government ultimately has to account at the end of its term in office, and to whose overriding will it must perforce humbly submit; and the electorate’s continued endorsement of an outgoing government is certainly no longer any foregone conclusion if ever it was.
All this is part of a healthy democratic process, where power alternates and erstwhile political parties in government now relegated to opposition benches are given the opportunity to renew themselves.
The fact that our country can switch smoothly from one government to another is a feather in the cap of our well-evolved nationhood.
There are no losers here, and we are all winners, provided we learn to move on and work for Malta.
In case anyone was wondering, like thousands of other compatriots I did not vote Labour, because in spite of everything else – and there was much which dismayed me – I was not prepared to risk changing what I firmly believed to be a winning horse for Malta in the present economic doldrums that is much of the European continent right now.
However, we must recognise that change has come. Muscat is our country’s new Prime Minister and I do not doubt that he is endowed with the mettle and wherewithal to rise to the occasion and do us proud, with the backing of a loyal opposition.
As for the rest of us mortals, in our different small ways we must all continue to strive for the prosperity of our beloved nation, and the well-being of all who are fortunate enough to dwell in this fair land.
Kevin Dingli is chairman of the Press Ethics Commission.