On power and politics - Anthony Buttigieg
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On power and politics - Anthony Buttigieg

We all should be happy when politicians state they are there to serve the people but, seriously, is that the case? Let us take this collection of tiny islands we live in as an example. 

Ever since I returned to Malta, a slightly bemused teenager after having emigrated to Great Britain with my parents as a six-week-old baby, I could not get my head around one thing: the way my fellow countrymen and women put politicians on a pedestal and how ministers were treated like modern day gods.

Politics is an art, a science, indeed there are university courses on the subject; but what defines a good politician? Is it the ability to get elected or what they do once they are?

It must be presumed that a politician is ambitious, after all, in a democratic nation, he or she would have been elected after a competitive race to the polls. It can also be presumed that there is a reason behind that person running for office and exposing themselves to public scrutiny, and that reason is power.

To have power is not a bad thing in itself; what is done with it and how it is used will define the person wielding it. The reason for seeking power could be a genuine desire to implement change for what that person believes would be the common good.

Power, however, could be sought for less noble reasons: to further the interests of the person holding it, those of his or her friends, associates and other party members, or to influence the course a country is taking to benefit certain lobby groups and profit from that influence.

As in all things, life is rarely a case of black and white and many politicians will fall somewhere between the two extremes, how close to which depends on who we choose to hold office and the checks and balances inherent in a country’s institutions that are meant to keep people on the right path.

Let us look at the current situation in Malta.

We have a political class that in most cases seems to believe that their power is not there to benefit us all but there to give advantage to a very close inner circle

We have a government that, while able to take credit for a booming economy, seems to be hell-bent on ensuring the bulk of the wealth created remains in the hands of a very small group of people at the very top of the economic pile.

The economic model being used, the mass importation of cheap labour and the handing over of public land at bargain basement prices to private corporations, leaves the money in a select few pockets and the inconveniences of overcrowding, pollution, environmental degradation, traffic jams, overstretched public services and stagnant wages firmly on the lap of the rest of us.

We have the main Opposition party that, instead of holding the government to task – probing, questioning, investigating, exposing bad practices and suggesting better alternatives – seems to be determined to tear itself apart solely over the question of power itself.

We have a political class currently in Parliament that, unfortunately in most cases, seems to believe that their power is not there to benefit us all but there to give advantage to a very close inner circle.

We have weakened, malfunctioning institutions whose role is to ensure that the public, those people without power, are protected from the bad practices of those who have it – and are very evidently failing to do so.

So, is the situation desperate? Yes and no.

It is a yes if we persist to choose who represents us in Parliament, both here and in Europe, based on the economic clout of their election campaign, on appearance, not substance, solely on political party and sponsorship. A yes, if we continue to view politicians as our masters and not our servants.

No, if we do the opposite, if we judge the political candidates, scrutinise the person, the human being, more deeply and then choose based on proposals, character and honesty.

No, if we take them off their pedestals and remind them of one fundamental thing: we, the people, have the ultimate power, the power to elect politicians, and they are there to serve those who put them in power in the first place.

It is time we remembered that.

Anthony Buttigieg is a Democratic Party candidate for the MEP elections.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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