I met two people: one from St Paul’s Bay who always voted Nationalist, the other from Safi who always voted Labour. In the last elections, neither of them voted because they had lost faith in both parties.

Another from Sliema, who supported one of the small parties, also stayed away in the face of what he sees as an electoral system unfairly stacked in favour of the big parties

In the March 26, 2022 general elections, 8,802 people invalidated their vote.

How many of those didn’t vote because they had lost faith in all political parties?

Are the Labour and Nationalist parties looking into why so many of their erstwhile voters are so disenchanted?

Or are they happy to be a republic built on sand that we bury our head in?

The three who did not vote told me that they were socially active in their community but chose not to get involved in party politics because of corruption, partisan tribalism and the way people at different levels of society use politics for their own selfish ambitions rather than for the common good.

How far do they articulate what led 60,000 not to vote at all last March? When citizens start shunning the institutions meant to represent them, those institutions inevitably become less and less inclusive and democratic. Then, the ensuing vacuum left by representative and inclusive politics is invariably filled by other forms of political life, often pathological.

Are we going to simply dismiss the 15 per cent who stayed away, arguing it is much worse in other democracies?

Pope Francis had a clear message when he addressed the civil authorities at the Presidential Palace in Valletta last April. Has it already been forgotten?

He said: “Honesty, justice, a sense of duty and transparency are the essential pillars of a mature civil society. May your commitment to eliminate illegality and corruption be strong, like the north wind that sweeps the coasts of this country.

“May you always cultivate legality and transparency which will enable the eradication of corruption and criminality, neither of which acts openly and in broad daylight.”

Condemning the type of economic development which is in fact “false prosperity” dictated by profit and consumerism, he said that Malta “must therefore be kept safe from rapacious greed, from avarice and from construction speculation. Instead, protecting the environment and the promotion of social justice are optimal ways to instil in young people a passion for healthy politics and to shield them from the temptation of indifference and lack of commitment”.

Dirtying our hands

“What is the use of a person with clean hands if he keeps them in his pockets? Use them!” So said Don Lorenzo Milani, the Italian priest who dedicated his life to the poor and the disempowered. He was not afraid to cross swords with religious and public authorities and to “soil” his own hands in the interests of social justice, the duty of every Christian, as he saw it.

Is it healthy to have party candidates and parties who get most of their funding from fat cats?- Evarist Bartolo

Similarly, he urged the young to “soil” their hands with politics in the struggle for justice.

Many today keep their hands in their pockets and pontificate to those who “soil” their hands with politics.

Four people I admire who “soil” their hands not with bribes but to work for the common good, for their own community and for the country, are mayors Conrad Borg Manché of Gżira, Paul Buttigieg of Qala, Christian Zammit of Xagħra and Albert Buttigieg of St Julian’s.

All four have the courage to take on the fat cats who damage the environment, often in collusion with well-connected others.

A few weeks ago, Paul Buttigieg was assaulted because he opposes them.

In his support, Zammit wrote on Facebook:“Unmitigated solidarity with mayor of Qala Paul Buttigieg.

“Mayors and councillors who are criticising and opposing the rape of Gozo and the environment generally. They should be protected and not beaten up and assaulted. Enough is enough.

“I sympathise with what Paul is going through.

“I myself have been subject to threats in the past and I know that, during the electoral campaign a boycott was organised against me by the construction industry, to undermine my candidacy. Enough is enough.

“These bullies have been given too much power. The two big parties must not remain hostage to the big contractors.

“I am angry and terribly upset by this! It’s too much.”

I stand by him. If we want honest and decent people to get involved in politics, we must support all those like Conrad, Paul, Christian and Albert, from whichever party they belong to, who engage in politics to serve the common good, not themselves.

Our puppet theatre

How do the candidates and the parties fund their campaigns?

The quality of a country’s democracy depends on how we answer this question.

Is it healthy for citizens and for the country to have party candidates and parties who get most of their funding from fat cats who then pull the strings?

Where and when this happens, instead of a democracy with empowered citizens and strong and accountable institutions, we have a puppet theatre.

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