Tribalism and clientelism is at the rotten core of Maltese politics.
Everything is seen in the form of either black or white, or, rather, red or blue. While tribalism is inherent in our culture, we cannot let it bring about an ‘us and them’ mentality. We need to understand the true benefit of politics and let that flourish on an evidence-based approach, for the benefit of all.
We have also managed to translate our strong point, the smallness of our country, into the seed of its decline. It has been strongly established, even by academics, that “the Maltese develop an intricate knowledge of the partisan affiliations and loyalties of friends, family and acquaintances, effectively mapping a network of potential influence, patronage and obligation.” This strong network tends to mean that politicians often have direct contact with their constituents.
This, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. Direct contact with people could enhance politics by gaining a better understanding of each individual’s concerns, each of which, is generally unique. By gaining an insight into people’s daily lives, politicians can use such knowledge to make policy which is truly based on the needs of the people. This, of course, always maintaining a balance with the general interest of society.
But when such contact is used for some to gain and others to miss out, even indirectly through corrupt decisions, then, such links become a problem. This is evidenced with the government dominating all social and political sectors, which has translated into control in the form of clientelism. Just look at the job market and its covert grab by the government. Partisan appointments are the norm, which, in turn, lead into the decline of public institutions, exacerbating the control.
These identifying features of our politics has meant that everyone entering into the world of politics is automatically categorised as being engrained with such characteristics. Is it so hard to believe that people may want to enter politics because they truly believe that Malta deserves better? Taking a brief look at the news, whereby corruption features on every front page, it is no wonder that many are led to believe that politicians are all the same.
But just complaining about corruption, Malta’s reputation, the scandals, the government gets us nowhere.
I needed to take action and so I did. I joined the PN- Rebekah Cilia
As a journalist, covering mostly political stories on the aftermath of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, writing articles on scandals was the norm for me. I would often sit back and I would not believe what I had just written. Was this really happening in my country? It was and I was there experiencing it first-hand. It appeased my conscience to know that I was the one putting forward the news and being part of the change but something still niggled inside. Was I really doing enough?
I was not part of the Nationalist Party at the time and the most I could do was work harder at being a journalist to tell the story. It came to a point, however, when I could no longer ‘just’ tell the story, I needed to do more. But what?
I had been at the PN headquarters for interviews but partisan politics was not my cup of tea. I too saw it as a dark shadow of our country.
But the need for me to take action grew stronger and stronger. I had to do something. Just complaining about the state of my country was not going to get me or anyone anywhere. I needed to take action, and so I did. I joined the PN. Since then I have learnt that tribalism stems from outside and not within the party. The party is ready to adapt and grow and, from experience, I can say is welcoming to ‘outsiders’, like me. It just needs to be given the chance.
At the helm of the party is a man of principles. A kind, yet strong man who knows his people and that gives me courage. Courage to know that we can look beyond tribalism and clientelism to get to where we need to be.
We just need people to take action, to see beyond the daily life that they live and know that politics (not tribalism) surrounds us.
The PN is our hope to overcome the dark state of politics. Let us be realistic; there is no other option. This may come across as partisan but the reality is the PN is the strongest numerical solution. This apart from the regeneration currently taking place.
When you regenerate, you grow. A healthy mix of old and new is what is needed to represent a society which itself is populated with old and new.
If there is a chance for us as a nation, let us build on what we have. Let us take action.
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