Random thoughts on parliamentary democracy.
1. October 9th. Luxembourg’s parliament reopens after the summer recess as does Belgium’s senate. L’essentiel reports that 30% of the members have sat in parliament for over 15 years. A commentary on Belgian radio remarked that it will be a slow period of work for the Belgian lawmakers marked by a series of long delays that will hamper any new progress on important legislation. Local elections are expected to give more bargaining clout to the nationalistic Flemish movements.
2. Yesterday’s session in the Maltese parliament was overshadowed by the need for Speaker Michael Frendo to consult the Standing Orders in order to rule about a motion of adjournment related to the Opposition’s pressing need to discuss a shelved plan for the privatisation of the management of public car parks. The Hon. Franco Debono also seemed rather concerned that his motion of no confidence in Minister Austin Gatt should be given the priority that he believes it deserves.
3. Much high talk was wasted on the ether as a few political aficionados spoke of a crumbling democracy, a government addicted to power or an opposition that busied itself with causing trouble. A road of bollocks, I hasten to add because, to corrupt the words of Trapattoni “bad democracy it is when the will of the majority as expressed in parliament is not respected”. The day of the showdown has not come yet. The car park excuse is not working wonders for either government or opposition. Government loses points for the image being portrayed of a decision maker that does not involve the parts (councils) and ignores issues of subsidiarity (Mosta Council, Rabat Council and more would rightly expect more involvement). The opposition has had its eagerness for power come what may unmasked by insisting on discussing plans that have been shelved.
4. Some signs of a revision of Opposition strategy in today’s papers. Joseph Muscat distanced himself from the Debono No Confidence motion. A sly move. It could go some way in abating the growing perception that Muscat is just as power hungry as the man who is supposedly clutching desperately to the seat of power. We’re in no hurry to present such a motion – said Muscat. What he did not obviously commit to is whether his party would vote in line with Franco should such a motion see the light of day before the budget. Given that the motion is based on the spurious car park issue then the holier than thou approach could be hoist by Franco’s petard.
5. Petards and fireworks is what the current government is specialising in. J’accuse remains of the opinion that government on life support will be ultimately perceived as a weak government. The summer plans should have culminated in a Sturm und Drang announcement of an election around the time of the reconvening of parliament. The key here was initiative. By taking the initiative and redrawing the battle ground (including the erasing of Franco, JPO and any dithering backbencher such as Mugliett) the PN would have regained precious ground in the eyes of public perception. Instead by hanging on to the power and leaving gaping questions as to the fabric and workings of democratic representation among Joe Public the PN is fast losing the perception game.
6. New issues such as the lease/sale of St. Philip’s (well documented by Carmel Cacopardo on his blog) or the retaining of the title of ambassador by Richard Cachia Caruana (what the hell were they thinking? noblesse obligée?) will not help settle this dust cloud of confusion. The failure to take the initative and the misplaced trust in the magic effect of such things as the 5+5 conference might be rued later on when the campaign really hots up (will it ever?). Furthermore the PN tantrums with regard to the Broadcasting Authority decisions regarding Public Broadcasting programmes will not help sweeten their image either. Meanwhile AD continues to be consistently ignored by the paladins of the future of journalism on PBS’ main programmes.
“Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.” – P.J. O’ Rourke