Fausto calls any reasoning that renders his championing of the Nationalists uncomfortable “convoluted” (Twisted Politics 2). Good for him. I am sure he finds Simon Busuttil’s convolution music to his ears - a chacun son gout.
In any case today we deal with another trumpet of the Nationalist agenda -that paragon of impartial objective truths… Austin Sammut.
Austin is not exactly directed from PN HQ but like Berta Sullivan’s his articles tend to be a bit of the “His Masters’ Voice” type. The theme of this week’s drops of wisdom is “Individual before party” (Times of Malta, 05/05/09) in which the learned nationalist campaigner goes through great pains to emphasise that insofar as the European Parliament elections are concerned the Nationalist Party and Labour party do not matter. More importantly, the loyalty of elected candidates is to the citizen and not to the party on whose ticket he is elected.
That explains Vince Farrugia of course. Here’s Austin’s words of indirect redemption for the GRTU maverick:
It is quite normal, and indeed very important, for a candidate to stand on a party ticket - that gives him the infrastructure, the organisation and hence the strength. But that does not mean that he does not have a mind of his own. Just look at the exposure the PN candidates have been given. They have been given ample space to speak at public meetings with their party leader. They have held activities of their own where they have not stood back from criticising the government.
Here’s one for Austin. In saleseman jargon it’s called “reciprocity” - that feeling of “you owe me one” that a customer gets when the salesman announces some kind of discount on a price. It’s the feeling of obligation to purchase a product that they are not even sure that they like. What other explanation is there for the party to garner the “strength” necessary to back candidates that can supposedly go AWOL once elected?
The party wants an elected candidate to feel an allegiance to its cause. Hopefully it wants the elected candidate not to cause too much damage to its cause when in Brussels. And that, my friends, is enough to belie this saintly attitude Austin seems to be describing.
Austin tries to sell us the idea that all candidates are worth considering but cannot resist taking a jab at the PL candidates. They lack exposure so thank God we have PN candidates who constantly expose their ideas.
If my only choice was to vote for Labour MEPs and I chose not to abstain, I could find one or possibly two who I might give my vote to. But then it is not only the PL which is contesting.
And he “does not want to be patronising” about this. I have to quote his conclusion in full:
What readers must realise (and I do not want to be patronising about this) is that the European Parliament does not represent national political parties. It represents citizens, and it represents citizens directly - not through the party. The party is there to provide the ticket. When a Maltese MEP goes to Brussels (or Strasbourg, of course) he/she will join a political grouping or political party in the EP - be it the European Popular Party-European Democrats, the Socialists, the Liberals, the Greens etc. The PN and the PL do not exist in the EP. Hence, the importance of voting for the individual, not the party. Our electorate must look at the candidate, his personality, his knowledge and, where appropriate, his track record. I will be seen as being very naïve to state that one should not vote on party lines, especially in this polarised country (although not so much anymore).
But the reasoning that Labour must get a majority over Nationalist or vice versa is a falsity. Look at the individual. Choose people with an open mind, who are capable of challenging and questioning even their party’s policies or lines of action; not people who do not speak out and just toe the party line in order to get a cushy position.
In other words Austin is setting up a smokescreen. The PN crew already has the feeling that the EP election vote will be used by voters to express their discontent against the party in government. Enter the likes of Austin and misting it all up in the hope that on a man-to-man fight people choose wisely and beyond partisan lines.
If people like Austin were serious they would find no use of the straightjacket party restrictions. If, as it is stated, candidates are elected for a direct line with the constituency of 400,000 (as happens in other countries) then we might as well do away with the political parties. As it is electors must be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing that might sweet talk their way using the bait of “direct representation without party interference”. If that were really the case I would be the first to vote for a defined list of candidates - but their track record proves otherwise.
What we do find is that the idea of picking the best man from each party in order to influence the choice of Malta’s representative in each of the three major formations (EPP, Socialists and Greens) gets stronger every day. It’s time for the electorate to be utilitarian rather than let the utilitarians do the talking.