With less than a week to go to the polls, and with the spectre of a low turnout haunting a rather subdued electoral campaign, the hunting lobby has made its grand entrance, stepping in to endorse a number of PL candidates including Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia and hunter and Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri.
Just like the government, FKNK has its own fresh blood running the cavalry, with new president Lucas Micallef showing an eagerness to feature in PL rallies and videos endorsing individual candidates.
Not only is Micallef contributing to the rebranding of the lobby of armed hunters, previously fronted by the Lino Farrugia/Joe Perici Calascione duo, but he has also taken the role of one of Labour’s main kingmakers.
There is little chance, according to surveys in the last week of the campaign, that the PN will win the election. Even so, only a small part of the hunting lobby can be expected to vote, or even consider voting PN.
This is because Labour has literally pulled all the stops to deregulate hunting as much as possible, and handed over two huge swathes of woodland to the FKNK in a scandalous decision taken behind everyone’s backs. Therefore, Labour is merely trying to increase its vote count by giving more power to an armed lobby which has had no reason to threaten voting for the PN.
Labour’s attempt to increase its margin by pandering to hunters comes at a cost to the rest of the electorate.
Less than a fortnight before the election, the Ornis Committee has reallowed turtle dove hunting (in a full-fronted challenge to the EU) while bird stuffing has been effectively depenalised.
Not only has there been no single candidate promising to return Aħrax and Miżieb to its rightful owners – the public – but, with a hunting season set to open in the days following the election, one can expect every sort of illegality under the sun to happen freely.
Sadly, the PN is nowhere close to behaving like an opposition on environmental issues. While Aaron Farrugia sidestepped questions about the “studies” justifying these decisions, PN leader Bernard Grech has declared he is “all for legal hunting”, just like “fireworks and festas”.
Similarly to the Aħrax-Miżieb debacle, civil society has been left alone in fighting measures that eat away at the public’s quality of life.
This electoral campaign has been a display of the privileges afforded to lobbies and their members. Just like hunting, the car enthusiast lobby has seen its loyalty rewarded with a racetrack in Ħal Far, now destined to become a high-rise industrial area.
The model plane lobby will get a new airstrip in Wied Żnuber, Birzebbuga; developers and business lobbies have lost count of the number of incentives and fiscal cuts they have been promised.
The prime minister descended on Birżebbugia last Thursday to try and put out the Wied Żnuber fire, which would result in the further haemorrhage of votes.
Yet, he clearly underestimates the danger of giving hunters even more power than they held before, possibly forgetting how they reacted when his predecessor Joseph Muscat suspended the hunting season a few years ago, after a dead bird landed in a schoolyard.
Shameless manoeuvres such as this could backfire. Not only will daily fines from the EU become a reality – meaning that the taxpayer will fork out money to appease a minority – but, in the context of elections shrouded by a layer of cynicism, decisions in favour of such lobbies may lead to more disgruntled Labourites not voting.