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A Republic in abeyance

It would be a disaster for the Labour Party to think that there is nothing to learn from its second landslide in a row. Likewise, it would be fatal for the Nationalist Party to think that somehow things are the same as they were a few weeks ago, when the party bigwigs thought it wise to launch a one-issue campaign, which turned out to be nothing short of a political suicide.

 Democracy confirms that when the people speaks, whichever way its verdict is interpreted by victors and defeated alike, it is trying to say something solid. This message does not only come in numbers of votes and seats, but more so in terms of the substance by which such a message is being conveyed.

Let’s put it this way: against what some seem to be implying, last week’s electoral results did not confirm that nothing has changed and things should continue as before.

It seems that there are many vocal individuals in both parties, who think that this election is giving them the right to either (a) feel bullish and think that now whatever they do is blessed and approved by the majority; or (b) feel somehow vindicated that the majority is made of “sheep” and what they have been saying and doing before the election should not only remain the same, but intensified.

Yet there is another side to this story. We all know that, deluded deniers apart, there are many who are sobered by the General Elections, and they happen to be from both sides of the electoral divide.

These elections are sobering not simply because one side lost heavily. Actually, those who win with huge majorities also know that majorities come at a high cost. 

Political parties always need to get a notion of where people are going. Yet what the electorate seems to indicate is a strange kind of impasse, which refuses to tell us anything, but strangely has everything to say in that the Maltese Republic appears to be stuck.

It’s as if people responded to a snap election by postponing it with their unwavering vote. In a way, the enthusiasm shown in the high vote, speaks the opposite. Voters seem to be saying: “It’s too early to make up our mind. We need to know more and we need to see things change further before we go somewhere else.”

To me this vote means that the Republic is in abeyance. I say the Republic and not the government because I happen to think that the climate which brought in this snap election was a very bad one. It was bad not because it felt negative, but because a sense of estrangement from each other and from the Republic itself was forced on us by a sense that in its mechanisms, the State is not functioning as it should be.

We know that the State is not the sitting government. It’s bigger. The State, whether represented by the Crown in a Constitutional Monarchy, or the Constitution in a Republic, is there as a functioning entity that protects democracy and its people.

Both parties need to heed to this call for change in the form of a voting impasse. Realising why this has happened, both the PN and PL need to reach out to each other and begin a process where civil society — and not just a bunch of lawyers, magistrates and judges — begins to discuss how the Republic could move on.

Before someone tells me whose fault it was that this did not happen sooner rather than later, I’d say that Malta urgently needs to at the very least look at itself and gain the same courage by which in 1974, after ten years of acrimony over Independence, the MLP and PN got together and decided to find a way of agreeing and form a Republic.

In the 80s Malta experienced another bout of dark division which then seriously threatened our young Republic. Yet again, Labour and Nationalists came together and sorted things out. Some said it was impossible and I know many who disagreed and felt their loyalties shattering when Mintoff and DeMarco reached out to sort the impasse of the 1980s.

Instead of calling each other “traitors” and “corrupt”, in retracing our recent history we should realise that we should be counting our blessings. The difficulties we have now, vanish in the shadow of what happened in our relatively young Republican history. This should be enough for us to rethink our course of direction and as we seek to open the forthcoming Parliamentary session, we begin to think how we can listen to the voters and take our Maltese Republic out of its current abeyance.

Like my hero Antonio Gramsci, intellectually I am a pessimist. Yet I am confident that it is no cliché to also agree with the great Sardinian that there will always be an optimism of the will. Malta’s politicians have shown such will before. We now expect them to rise up to the challenge they were given by their electorate.

No excuses or hiding behind one’s flag should be permitted before we come to a point where we could say that this process has begun and that we will not allow it to fail. 

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