Determinants of electoral success

Aleks Farrugia (‘The philosophy of making-do’, March 7) tries to analyse the Maltese psyche to explain his prediction that the Vitals-Steward case won’t bring down the government. He starts off suggesting a similarity of our mentality to that of Italians, particularly those of the south.

I believe there are significant differences between the Italian and Maltese experience. When the Roman empire collapsed, Italy was left a totally divided country, a collection of city states at constant war with each other, including the papacy.

Several invasions and foreign occupations added to the divisions and stresses of an uneven Italian population. Even until very recent times, north Italians regarded anywhere south of Rome as “part of Africa”. After Mussolini’s disastrously miscalculated war opportunism, Italian schizophrenia swung from fascism to communism with the largest communist party (supported by Moscow) in Western Europe.

However, in spite of all these negatives, Italy has had some positives which Farrugia has omitted to mention when trying to explain corruption and its consequences.

When WWII ended, Italy was a shattered country and before its parliamentary democracy could be reorganised, the Allies put the Carabinieri in charge of law and order because they had a reputation of upholding the law independent of political interference. Does our post-colonial police force, including the current one, have a similar reputation for resisting political interference?

When it came to dealing with corruption on a huge scale (tangentopoli), the Italian police and judges sent some industrial and political big heads to prison – one prime minister had to seek exile in North Africa. How do we compare in dealing with allegations of big-time corruption?

I agree with Farrugia that our electorate will determine who governs Malta. The electorate is mainly influenced by its own state of contentment or discontent. “It’s the economy, stupid,” said one US presidency contender to the other. In none of the liberal democracies does the electorate tend to change the government when the economy is doing well.

Eddie Fenech Adami made it in 1987 at a time of a dismal economy. Labour was then the party of high unemployment and high taxation. However Joseph Muscat, like the UK Labour’s Tony Blair, persuaded a significant proportion of the middle class to vote for “New Labour”. And, just before this 2013 election, a tired PN got further mired in a proposed apparently illegal building project at Mistra and a power station oil procurement corruption allegation. Muscat’s New Labour quickly proved to be a government of practically full employment and low taxation. And that explains the continuing Labour electoral successes.

I must admit I find the critical narratives about the roads infrastructural improvements and the big influx of foreign workers rather tiresome, if not stupid. We needed to think and decide about a metro system 20 years ago but what we got instead was a foreign “expert” recommending narrowing arterial roads to slow down vehicles. Maltese unemployment is negligible, so foreign workers are carrying out work the Maltese don’t want to do or there aren’t enough Maltese for the expanded work openings.

Back to corruption, that’s present everywhere to varying degrees. We’ve had it from day one of independent Malta when the Gozo hospital’s UK architect (John Poulson) was found guilty (in the UK) of corrupting UK and Malta ministers and got a prison sentence. You cannot expect to control corruption without deterrence.

Maltese corruption court cases without conclusions are no deterrence. Dubious law and order may lead to an illiberal, fake democracy. Will the majority be worried enough about that or will many whingers again shun the ballot box?

Albert Cilia-Vincenti – Attard

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