It happens on the eve of most general elections in Malta. We are once more being bombarded with comments emphasising the need to set up a pre-electoral coalition in order to present a united opposition to Joseph Muscat’s Labour Party.
The Leader of the Opposition, as a self-appointed messiah, has reiterated many a time that the country can only be delivered from the clutches of corruption if it unites under his leadership in opposition to Joseph Muscat, the Labour Party and all that they represent. It is claimed that he can deliver us from all evil!
In public fora, Simon Busuttil speaks in favour of setting up “a coalition against corruption”, yet privately – far away from the glaring spotlight – he is actively working on trying to assimilate within the Nationalist Party those whom he thinks can help increase his own party’s vote tally. He has successfully recruited Salvu Mallia and is apparently currently in the final stages of the process of assimilating Marlene Farrugia’s Democratic Party within the Nationalist Party.
In my view this can in no way be described as the manner in which to go about assembling a pre-electoral coalition of political parties. Rather, it is an attempt by the Nationalist Party at cannibalising other political parties, an exercise which, in fairness, has been going on for years. Just like the Labour Party, the Nationalist Party has, to date, demonstrated that the only coalition that made any sense to them was the one within their own parties, as both of them have, over the years, developed into grand coalitions – at times simultaneously championing diametrically opposed causes.
Real pre-electoral coalitions are assembled in a quite different manner. They should be formed on the basis of a commonly agreed political platform – one which plots an agreed electoral programme as well as the manner in which this should be implemented by the coalition partners.
Given its method of operation to date, I have reasonable doubts as to whether the Nationalist Party is able to compromise on its electoral pledges as well as to whether it can ever agree to take on board (at least) the basic issues championed by the other political parties with which it may seek to form a coalition. If a pre-electoral coalition is ever to be formed, the coalition’s electoral platform must be acceptable to all the constituent elements of that coalition.
An agreed electoral platform would address much more than issues of corruption and governance – on which there is a general common position. An agreed electoral platform would necessarily be all-embracing and range from environmental matters to education, social, economic, fiscal and cultural policy, as well as all other matters so essential in running the country.
A pre-electoral coalition must of necessity be constructed on the basis of this agreed electoral platform, a crystallisation of thought and political direction shared by the political parties forming the coalition. The process to achieve such an agreed shared electoral platform is long and laborious, as a multitude of red lines have to be agreed on or else overcome. It is an exercise that should be based on mutual respect in contrast to the often acrimonious relationship so prevalent in local politics.
By its very nature, a pre-electoral coalition, if formed, signifies a commitment to do away with, once and for all, two-party politics and consequently signifies the substitution of the politics of confrontation with the politics of consensus.
This would be a watershed in Maltese politics and this is the real challenge, if we wish to move forward.
published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 12 February 2017