Malta’s voting system, known as the Single Transferable Vote, may have its disadvantages but it gives the power and, also, the advantage to the electorate to be more selective in the election of the politicians whom it wants to represent it in Parliament.
Thomas Hare, the English barrister who is generally credited with developing the STV system, put it succinctly when he said that this kind of proportional system should be the means of “making the exercise of the suffrage a step in the elevation of the individual character, whether it be found in the majority or the minority”.
Today, the electorate has the sovereign right to do precisely that.
It is not often that it is called to do so but, on polling day, voters have in their hands the power to see to it that only candidates whom they think can really contribute to the people’s well-being are given the privilege to represent them in Parliament.
In contesting elections, some politicians everywhere may seek their own interest first and there are voters who are also apt to do the same, particularly in an electoral system as the one we have in Malta. However, this is not to say that all politicians and all voters do this.
The country has had a long list of unselfish politicians who have made their mark in Malta’s constitutional and social history by turning their role and work in politics into a mission. Others may have not left a mark but they have, likewise, given their contribution to the full.
Today, voters have an opportunity to choose not only the political party which they believe can run the country better than the other but also the candidates of their choice by ranking them in order of preference.
Malta is credited with having the highest free voter turnout in the world, an indication perhaps of the people’s strong political feelings. Such active political participation suggests a lively democracy, which, of course, is an advantage because it puts the Administration on its guard.
The election has been strongly fought. Hopefully, polling will be conducted efficiently and that certain pitfalls that led to the extension of polling time in the last election five years ago will be avoided.
In no time now, Malta will have a new Administration and the country will be able to start picking up where it left off before the start of the electoral campaign, which started two long months ago when the President dissolved Parliament on January 7.
This is not to say that the country has stood still but the intensive political activity in which so many people from both parties were involved inevitably meant that they were deflected from normal life and duties.
As the new Administration settles down, the challenges ahead remain the same, whichever party is elected. Both parties seek to promote economic growth to help bring about a higher living standard and sustain the ever growing network of social benefits. It is generally not the aims over which the parties disagree most but, rather, the method they think is the best way to reach them. Excepting details, it is remarkable how close the two parties are in their ultimate objectives.
With the campaign now over, it is time for tempers to cool, for the dust to settle, for apologies to be made, offensive words (and some libel suits) to be withdrawn, for the winning party to celebrate and for Malta to move ahead.