The Electoral Commission said this morning that while it had received an application to register “Lovin Malta” as a political party, it has not approved it yet.

"The Commission shall be examining the documentation it has received to verify their conformity with the legal provisions of the Financing of Political Parties Act (Cap. 544) before it arrives at a decision. This is the procedure used to vet each such application received.

Meanwhile, Times of Malta reported earlier today that Lovin Malta will not be running for election, but what started as an April Fool’s joke could still become something far more significant.

When the news and entertainment website announced on Saturday their intention to contest the next general election, unveiling a manifesto of 52 serious (if somewhat idealistic) proposals, the public reacted with well-justified scepticism, but also a fair degree of excitement.

Among its major platforms, the nascent party – which was registered with the Electoral Commission as part of the prank – aimed to legalise marijuana, create an online database of every single government transaction, and increase ODZ land through the re-greening of built areas.

Thousands shared the manifesto before and after the prank was revealed, pledging their votes to ‘Partit Lovin Malta’, while dozens wrote in with their own proposals, and similar numbers put themselves forward as candidates.

The message from many was: if this isn’t real, then it should be.

“We showed how easy it is to capture the public’s imagination if you do things with a bit of creativity and substance,” Lovin Malta founder and CEO Christian Peregin told the Times of Malta. “Within half a day, we made a big enough impact for people to think this was actually real. These ideas are out there, and I think all political parties will take on some of them.”

The notion is not far-fetched. As the manifesto was announced, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil tweeted: “Some great ideas from this new political party. As a party that’s been lovin Malta we’ll surely take them up.”

Former Green Party chairman Michael Briguglio said the stunt was a reminder of “opportunities for parties to take up” but also of “the current checkmate, malaise, bubbles and echo-chambers”.

Meanwhile, a proposal to eliminate ‘language discrimination’ prompted a serious online discussion among experts.

Mr Peregin insisted the stunt was “completely intended as a prank”, dismissing any suggestion that it was a dry run for the start of a real political movement. But neither will the momentum generated fade into nothing. Lovin Malta is now hoping to run a crowdfunding campaign to erect billboards showcasing their most popular proposals – as voted for by the public – potentially establishing itself as a new voice in political discourse.

“It’s only as much a joke as people want it to be,” Mr Peregin said. “We won’t be contesting elections, but I think we can bring about interesting discussions and change in different ways. People like the proposals, so why not make sure they’re taken seriously by politicians?”

While admitting that the process of drawing up the manifesto, which took just a few hours, was made easier by the knowledge that the ‘party’ would never have to follow through, Mr Peregin reiterated that there was nothing jokey about the proposals themselves.

From issues like marijuana and reproductive rights that mainstream parties have shied away from, to innovative ideas like restructuring democracy for the digital age, he said the stunt had demonstrated that it was “surprisingly easy” to make an impact by “looking at the world around us and asking what we could change”.

Serious political forces, like the Pirate Party in Iceland, have arisen from crowdsourced online initiatives before.

Whether an elaborate prank could open the door for a similar movement to grow in Malta remains to be seen.

Highlights from Lovin Malta’s ‘electoral manifesto’

• Increase ODZ land through regreening
• Introduce online voting and put all government transactions online
• Legalise marijuana and invest tax money in education and mental health
• Encourage national clean-up activities
• Reduce the number of MPs and increase their resources.
• Offer subsidies on e-bikes and invest in infrastructure
• Turn Gozo into an incubator for eco-startups
• Protect citizens’ right to speak either official language
• Reduce the working week to 35 hours and increase minimum wage.

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