A couple of months ago Simon Busuttil visited the Luxembourg expat community in his capacity as EU MEP. Exceptionally I decided to attend the meeting and had a cordial chat with Simon. I say “expat community” but I mean “Maltese EU institution workers” because there is no kidding oneself here – that is what most of the Maltese community in Luxembourg is about.
One of the issues raised was the question of voting abroad and Simon Busuttil did mention that he was “working on it” (remember – he was still mainly an MEP at the time) but that they had encountered problems in defining the right. Which is when the “Australia” bomb dropped with perfect timing. It always comes up. “What do we do with the expat community in Australia?” Well, I have a few ideas myself but frankly I do find this foot shuffling excuse to be the pits of partisan hypocrisy.
The issue needs to be tackled in steps. I’d begin with the obvious. There are by now hundreds of Maltese employed by international institutions. Their legal status is not hazy – it is rather clear. They do not become residents of Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany or wherever they are posted but rather get into a vacuum that is being a recognised resident for work purposes but not for voting purposes at national level. Which makes sense really. Even the way salaries are calculated for EU civil servants acknowledges the animus revertendi of the workers (the intention to return to their mother country). Part of an EU wage includes an expatriation allowance – paid in order for the employee to be able to return regularly to the country he calls home.
So how difficult can it be for Maltese electoral law to begin by recognising this fact and allowing for such institution workers to (at least) vote in their respective embassies. Not as difficult (or as expensive) as the regular rustle of electoral lists, flight charters and illegal probing into private details by parties surely. Not as expensive as the eco-footprint of the flights that carry the eager voters to their ballots in their home district.
There are no two ways about it. The PL and the PN are firmly entrenched against the idea of allowing voters abroad to exercise their right practically without having to take days off work. Instead they regale us with such beauties as “it is an academic exercise because the law was not changed in time” – who did not change it I ask?
Then you get the genius labour way of thinking: Why should we bother fighting for their rights if they do not vote for us? Based of course on the assumption that all expats are blue-eyed boys (remember Alfred Sant tabling the list in parliament of private citizens who had availed themselves of the charter flight?). Twisted reasoning like this can only be the ugly offspring of partisan politics. Alternattiva demokratika is firmly committed to change this sorry state of affairs and does not do sorry excuses of the Australian kind.
Ah yes. Did I mention the “Australia scare”? It’s a bit like the “wasted vote” on the eve of elections. The parties will tell you that there are over 1 million Maltese living abroad – and do you want them to vote for you? 1 million Maltese eh….We all know the answer to that one – and somehow I think that the bemused Melbourne, Toronto or New York second-generation Maltese would have an answer to that one too. Change the incentive from “free flight home” to a trip to the nearest embassy and we’ll see how quickly voters choose to exercise their right.
Next time you speak of free flights and free holidays think again. You should be speaking of expensive bills chosen by the PL and the PN… because the only ones benefiting from the current system are the same old dinosaurs that you chose to vote for.