Skip to main content

What is the best thing people can do in response to this political landscape?

As a citizen of a country whose population is known to remain compliant even when the state is culpable of eye-watering levels of corruption, I feel like it is my duty to sound off a note of defiance.

Given that I am a journalist and an activist, many people tend to bring up politics when they speak to me, often because they want to sound off their opinion with someone who they assume will be able to test the reasonableness of their thoughts.

The question I highlighted at the top of this article has been on people’s minds for a while, with good reason.

In April, I published a deep dive analysis about the political endgame we will be facing by 2027, the deadline for the next general elections. I described this week’s local council and MEP elections as a litmus test for both the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party, whose loyal supporter bases are becoming older while younger voters refuse to accept their outdated political models. The key point was about effectively weaponising votes to boot the Labour Party out of power because its propensity for corruption poses an existential threat to our society.

As early as December of last year, polls were already showing a staggering level of distrust in both prime minister Robert Abela and leader of the opposition Bernard Grech. I argued that this was a sign of the times, a turning point in which the two political forces that shaped our country before we could even call ourselves sovereign are now buckling under the weight of their own inadequacy.

Fast forward to today, and we are seeing a direct manifestation of this trend in the form of a surge in support for independent MEP candidate Arnold Cassola. According to a Times of Malta survey published on Sunday, support for Cassola is only surpassed by the major parties’ lead candidates, incumbent Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba and incumbent president of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola.

I will not use this column to tell you what I think your vote will translate to in terms of policy outcomes. You can read our shorthand guide if that is what you are are looking for. This column is meant to talk about a necessary behavioural shift we must all engage in: the notion of becoming ungovernable, and what benefits that could bring to our nation. I will start with an example that is directly relevant to this upcoming election, and widen the argument later.

Both the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party have been screaming themselves hoarse trying to convince you that nothing but voting for all of their candidates will do, deliberately obscuring the way our country’s Single Transferable Vote system works to coerce you into doing so (you can watch a good explainer here).

Robert Abela, that amoral, panic-stricken mess of a prime minister, has made all sorts of outrageously false claims about how the vote on 8 June is to be seen as a vote “against war, hatred, and austerity”. On Monday, he was rambling on about the fabled establishment once more, yet again accusing a figment of his party’s imagination of conspiring against Labour. Abela described this as an attempt to derail the party’s electoral campaign, as if anything could do so more than the corruption that his former boss and his accomplices are responsible for.

Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech (left) and prime minister Robert Abela (right).

Meanwhile, using his time and tested strategy of putting his foot in his mouth exactly when circumstances align in his party’s favour, Bernard Grech has been busy pushing the Nationalist Party’s questionable approach towards third parties and independent candidates. Instead of playing it smart by bringing together a coalition of parties who can provide the public with a credible mandate for cleaning up corruption and Malta’s tarnished international reputation, the Nationalist Party insists on claiming that a vote for a smaller party or an independent candidate is a vote for Labour.

While the desired outcome is diametrically opposite, both major parties are asking you to do the same thing. They want you to follow their command. They are asking you to suspend all your reasonable doubts about their track record and blindly place your faith in all of their candidates, many of whom act like a seamless mass of faces who will always serve the party rather before they serve their conscience by safeguarding the needs of the people who elected them.

Fearful of the erosion of their previously unchallenged power, the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party are becoming increasingly reliant on this kind of manipulation of voter sentiment. The failure to mobilise voters as much as we’ve seen in previous elections means the core supporter bases of the major parties must also feel this fear. It is a desperate attempt to to rally the troops behind the parties’ tattered flags.

This is where the heart of this column’s pitch becomes clear. To become ungovernable isn’t to become unruly, uncooperative, or hostile towards mutual agreement. It is not to rebel pointlessly against any and all authority, either.

It is about aspiring to become the kind of individual who is informed enough to make their own choices without needing to rely on anyone else’s opinion to do so. It is about caring enough about the world around you to take action in the face of injustice, especially if the authorities who are meant to right those wrongs end up becoming the ones committing them in the first place, even if you run the risk of facing repercussions for your resistance. It is about not deferring to authority simply because it said so.

Becoming ungovernable means having the independence of thought and soundness of mind to figure out that our survival as a species depends on our ability to extinguish whatever threatens it. In our case, the existential threat du jour is corruption, and extinguishing corruption means that we must bravely face all the dark forces which feed off of it and will fight tooth and nail to preserve their meal tickets.

In simpler words, to become ungovernable is to refuse to abide by dogma unless your conscience, your values, and an overall sense of basic human decency are being taken into account. This is the antidote to a political scene that is becoming increasingly paralysed by the inadequacy of its two traditional offerings: to refuse to take a party’s word for it, to remind them that they are the ones who are meant to serve us, not the other way around.

The kind of massive, statewide corruption we’ve seen in Malta is only possible if the rot runs deep. Allowing the two major parties to dictate our lives for so long meant that they were able to control every aspect, especially when it comes to the way in which our education system fails to foster an objective understanding of politics, the way it shapes our lives, and each and every individual’s democratic responsibility to ensure that wrongdoing is effectively opposed. It is a failure that has come about by design, and must be rectified accordingly.

This isn’t even about ‘punishing’ the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party. It’s about describing a realistic, achievable state of being for any individual who sees value in doing so, and explaining why it could be of game-changing importance in a country whose history of civil society activism before the last decade can be described as sedentary. All that is needed is enough people who are willing to embrace such an attitude.

I understand, of course, that there are plenty of obstacles and that there are many who are extremely resistant to the mere thought of abandoning their allegiance to their political party. But I also understand that, short of running away to another country and hoping things won’t be worse there, this is the only path ahead of us. If you already consider yourself to be ungovernable, it is your responsibility to help others unshackle themselves.

There is no time for reform – our only remaining hope is resistance.

One Comment

Leave a Reply