Our vote in the next general election

Joseph F.X Zahra's blog on Newsbook

I do apologize from the start for my cynicism. Well, we are all political sceptics now. Politicians and politics are going through a rough time with the likes of Donald Trump, and the debate on Brexit. Even closer to home, the Panama Papers and all the rest has reaffirmed what almost everyone knew that all is not well with our way of doing politics. Despite all this in two years’ time we shall all as good citizens participate in the voting process for a new government. Malta’s participation rate in general elections had only been beaten in the past by communist regimes and other dictatorships when people were made to vote at gun point. Our experience is not necessarily evidence of the proper functioning of a democracy. Far from it.  Experience has proven this point. 

Let us put aside the nearly sixty per cent of voters who will vote in accordance to their family political allegiance – and that is still very high in Malta. The rest will not vote because of tribal affiliations, but because of their pockets or their minute, specific personal interest. There is no ideology in this at all. Political ideology is now dead and buried. There is no altruism in the vote, no participation in the grand design of things. The dire straits in ideals, ethics and morality will feature only au passant in the way people vote. Most will have a clean conscience by saying:  “aren’t they (politicians) in the same boat when it comes to their moral standing?” What will matter with the balance of forty per cent of voters which we label floaters or switchers is that they will vote on personal impact. Is my job safe? Am I earning good money? Are my ambitions for my child on schooling etc. being threatened? Am I getting the business I expected?  Is my pension secure? Is free health service for me and my family there to stay?

What most remember of the Mintoff and the Fenech Adami era today is not the moral or physical violence or its absence, but whether personally one had earned a living or not.

This also explains why issues on environment, the (urgent) need to reform our social welfare system, the risks of over construction and the probability of a property bubble, do not and will not feature at all in the minds of most of the voters in 2018. There is nothing strange in this. It is the way a democracy functions. It is personal and not collective. Remember the famous phrase, “it’s the economy, stupid”. The economy is relevant only if I have a secure job and a future for my children. My cynicism comes back in here, for most of the voters it is tribe, money or personal interest, but not society or the common good. There is no long-sightedness, no morality, and no thought for posterity beyond the immediate needs of my children. It is a sad state of affairs. What a pity. We are all worse off because of this.

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