What’s Happening to the Green Vote

times_of_malta196x703by Carmel Cacopardo

published Saturday June 13, 2009


Various columnists have commented on what they have termed as the “collapse” of the Green vote in the EU parliamentary elections. This conclusion has been arrived at by comparing the EU electoral results for 2004 with those for 2009.

I consider that the conclusion of a Green vote “collapse” is the result of a superficial analysis. One needs to go much deeper and consider whether the 2004 Green share of the vote was in reality a Green vote, or whether it was a one-time occurrence as a direct result of the prevailing political climate in 2004.

I tend to agree with Austin Bencini (The Times, June 10) that the larger chunk of the AD vote in 2004 was pro-EU support, which found its way to the Greens as a direct result of the Labour Party’s Euro-scepticism. Five years down the line the electorate has concluded that there is no going back on EU membership and that today’s Labour Party (PL) leadership has generally accepted EU membership as irreversible.

It is also very obvious that having a pro-EU stance entails much more than just being in favour of EU accession! Euro credentials are also measured through other parameters, among which the inertia in implementing the EU acquis. An obvious example is the prolonged reluctance to implement the provisions of the Birds Directive.

Known for a long time, this was confirmed through the proceedings of the meeting which PN leader Lawrence Gonzi together with MEP candidate Alex Perici Calascione had with hunters and trappers at Buskett behind closed doors during the electoral campaign. The PN-led government is still reluctant to accept publicly what has actually been negotiated with the EU. During the Buskett meeting, Dr Gonzi was very clear in stating that, while the government he leads was “helping” hunters and trappers, their perceived threat of not voting would indirectly help the Greens.

There are countless other examples.

Infringement procedures for failure to implement EU directives could also shed some light on effective PN commitment to EU values and policies.

AD’s vote share was reduced substantially in size primarily for two reasons. Firstly, the changes in the PL leadership and its policies have attracted back to its fold a large part of those voters who had migrated from Labour to AD in the 2004 EU elections. Secondly, AD has not yet developed a national network that could interact with its 2004 voter avalanche.

It is an open secret that while AD has sound policies it has never had an adequate organisational set-up. It lacks finances and adequate access to the media. Moreover, AD did not interact sufficiently with its new voters, such that they returned to their roots when the reasons for their migration ceased to exist.

At the counting hall I noted that support for AD even in EU elections was at its best in those electoral districts where Greens have been represented in local councils. This vindicates the proposal made by the AD commission I led, analysing the 2008 general election results: that participation by Greens in all the local councils is an essential building block required to ascertain an AD presence at the national level. The three candidates AD presented for this year’s local elections is a small first step. It is not sufficient. Much more requires to be done in order for Green voters and ideas to be adequately represented at the local level.

A Green vote is a vote for the Greens and not a vote for somebody else by proxy! This does not exclude the possibility that Greens elected at any level enter into a coalition with another party on the basis of mutually-agreed objectives. This has already been done once in AD’s 20-year history when AD entered into a coalition with the PN and the greater part of civil society during 1998-2003 in support of EU accession. Subsequently, the AD leadership is on record as stating that the PN wanted to develop further this coalition: it invited AD to refrain from contesting the 2003 general election in return for the appointment of the Speaker of the House of Representatives as well as the possible co-option of an MP from AD’s ranks. This offer, which was declined by AD, illustrates the significance of a coalition to the PN: the complete subjugation of a junior partner. AD thinks otherwise and will not trade its autonomy.

If one were to set aside the one-time occurrence of the 2004 Euro-vote for AD, the Green vote in June 2009 was a slight increase over the performance in other nation-wide elections. Though it is not much in numerical terms it further consolidates the core support of the Maltese Greens. Whether this will increase at a faster rate in the future depends on whether AD successfully establishes a foothold in more local councils, thereby ensuring a constant Green presence in the service of our communities.

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