The country needs to recover from the trauma caused by the political turmoil that has shocked most people in the wake of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder probe. While it is far from over yet, it is time to start learning lessons from one of the biggest scandals in our political history with a view to strengthening our democratic system.
Maltese politics need a new beginning to make corrupt practices in public life less likely. We need to restore the faith of the honest and silent majority in our elected representatives.
Some changes in our political infrastructure need little effort, but a lot of goodwill from our political leaders, to implement. Other changes will depend on reforms in our constitution that may take some time to materialise even if the process of change has already started.
The leader of the Opposition, Adrian Delia, has made a number of sensible recommendations for a new era of political reform. After decades of inertia, the political infrastructure has become fossilised with practices that are no longer acceptable in a mature society.
No political party can claim that it knows best what is good for the country. Hopefully, the leadership of the parties, as well as pressure groups and civil society, can engage in a mature debate on how to make our politicians less susceptible to corruption and abuse of power. One issue that merits immediate and major attention is the financing of political parties.
These last few decades we have experienced state capture – situations where small corrupt groups in big business used their influence over government officials and politicians to appropriate government decision-making to strengthen their economic positions.
This perverse relationship between corrupt business and equally corrupt politicians is often conceived when a political party is in opposition. It is then enhanced when the same political party is in power.
Running a political party in today’s socio-economic environment is an expensive venture. The days are long gone when the parties spread their message through the hard work of unpaid volunteers. Big business learned to exploit this weakness by supporting one or both political parties.
They hope that their investment will pay windfall profits when either of the parties they financed comes to power.
Many are adamant against the idea of taxpayers financing political parties. Traditional politicians have lost the trust of many because when in power, they betray the ideals they preach in opposition. But cutting the umbilical cord linking big business to political parties is one practical way of sanitising our political system, because it frees political parties from the control of oligarchs.
Closely associated with this proposal is the recommendation that political parties should desist from owning and managing TV and radio stations. This phenomenon is dividing us into political tribes. Malta is one of the few democratic countries where the main political parties have their own media outlets.
Our community would be better served in political communication if the national TV and radio stations were removed from the suffocating control of the government, with the distortions that brings about, and engages in truly independent journalism. The aftershocks of the earthquake that has rocked our political system will continue to be felt for a long time. The new prime minister could win respect and support of many if he ushers in a new beginning through reforms like these.
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