Discussing the Franco Debono situation over lunch yesterday, we joked that his statement of “I will not vote with Labour” (as reported by MaltaToday) meant just that. Admittedly our considerations were more in jest than anything else but we considered the possibility that Franco was using his very literal form of reasoning in the sense that “not voting with Labour” does not necessarily mean voting otherwise.
I must admit that given the information earlier that morning I too was surprised by the outcome of the final vote. Surprised to a certain extent though. While I had not seen Franco’s vote coming I was fully aware of the consequences of this vote in the sense that there would be no great collapsing of government, no tumbling down of the temples of power and that the only “victim” of this latest fit would be Carm Mifsud Bonnici.
Incidentally we had also joked that since the motion of confidence had concerned a portfolio that was no longer in CMB’s remit then technically there was nothing to resign from once the vote passed. I know, it’s no laughing matter but the way things were going laughter did seem to be the best medicine. The whole body politic has been in the thrall of Franco Debono’s voting antics for quite some time now. As we pointed out in an earlier series of posts (Malta Post Franco I-IV), Franco is doomed to be a temporal blip in political history.
Sure a record might be broken here and there – such as the forcing of a resignation of a minister (within living memory) but the long-term impact of Franco on the Maltese political landscape was always intrinsically linked with the one-seat majority that the nationalist party enjoys (ah, the cruelty of language) in parliament. The content of Franco’s agenda (or whatever screen he has put up to disguise any personal ambitions and compensation for suffering) is all watered down when seen from a long-term perspective.
In two matters Franco has been unintentionally and unwittingly useful. Firstly his protracted theatricals have served to exposed one major weakness of our representative democracy. The obsession with guaranteeing a bi-partisan approach and discarding all other models (such as one that encourages proportional representation) has meant for some time now that the JPO’s and Debonos of this world expose the stark reality of “election or bust” oriented parties without a backbone. This is a weakness that no “premio maggioranza” would solve , rather, it would only serve to entrench the two parties further in their twisted machinations.
The second useful matter concerns the Labour party. Franco’s bluff and no bluff has actually uncovered the Labour party’s brash “power or nothing” approach that discards any conventional value-driven approach while grafting the ugliest versions of the nationalist party to what it believes to be its own benefit. Valueless politics giving way to full blown marketing was already bad enough. Now we have Labour with it’s catastrophic approach. Muscat’s Labour has shot itself in the foot so many times it probably lacks any limbs.
There is a third, important conclusion that one should add. It is the ugly reflection about the “general public”. A large swathe of it – or the particularly active part of it – have proven to be ridiculously hopeful of the promises that Franco seems to have bandied about. His pet subjects were manna to the ears of the disgruntled – particularly conspiracy theories peppered with mantras about arrogance, cliques and friends of friends. His tales of hurt and suffering – culminating in the infamously comic “broken chair in Court” episode could only strike home if the audience were (how can I put it) less informed.
To conclude, the merry go round that risks being extended once Franco misses out on the latest redistribution of power has exposed huge fault lines in our appreciation of how a basic democracy should function. Separation of powers, judicial authority, parliamentary privileges, public security and rights were all melded together in one big bouillabaisse of political convenience.
Franco’s minutes in the political playing field are now counted. We should have moved on from gazing at Franco months ago, yet we (and the press have much to blame for this) are still at the mercy of his idea of a guessing game. The real politics that will affect out lives for the coming five to ten years lie far away from Franco’s hand. Sadly, nobody seems to be bothered to find out what what those politics and policies really are or will be.
from Malta Post-Franco (II)
To get at Austin Gatt, Joe Saliba, Carm Mifsud Bonnici, Richard Cachia Caruana and others Franco Debono decided that the best option was to threaten to topple government. He had had enough waiting in the sidelines for his opinions and ideas to be heard and for a place in the decision making clique that counts. So he refused to play.