Forgotten Sons

Nikki Dimech has been condemned to one year in jail. The plight of the damned Nationalist Sliema Councillors seems aeons away now. The Sliema council ills were the first clear external signs that all was not well within the PN structure. We look back to the meetings between Paul Borg Olivier and the ill-fated councillors with a new perspective now. Dimech would be painted as the rotten apple immediately hung dry by the very party that had judged him suitable for the job. Of course with such a wide net of local council elections parties are bound to choose a bad apple or two every now and then but it is the manner in which hands are washed that is impressive.

The party structures are geared to win elections but are much less well equipped when it comes to supporting and monitoring the party representatives on the councils. The PN reaction once the court judgement was announced is puerile to say the least. “We were right”, they thundered in their press release, änd Labour was wrong for criticising how we dealt with Dimech”. That’s all it is really with them. A matter of black and white. Readers will get so easily distracted with this pot and kettle business. They will forget that people like Dimech were backed by the party structures, they were placed on an electoral list to win the votes for the party and to have councillors in place to maintain the party network that is fed on votes – come what may.

Dimech’s prison sentence may be a personal condemnation on a young man who is still in time to recognise his wrongs. It is also an indictment on a party candidate system that is lax and based on the wrong priorities. Dimech and Debono – two by-products of this system have badly backfired in the face of the PN. Are there many more lurking in the background waiting for the dividends of the next election?

The PN would do well to take note.

The Julian Galea Electors

Julian Galea is the only PN candidate in Sliema to have survived the mess from the previous council. On any other day he would have been hailed as a resilient survivor instead, like an ugly wart, he has become the latest manifestation of the obsessive symptoms of Maltese electoral practices. Galea’s infamy began when he was unlucky enough to be entrapped into a recording of vile pronouncements expounding quite succinctly his base intolerance for anything Labour (Apparently, if you believe Galea this happened two years ago in a meeting between PN candidates – bravu Cirillu). It was too late to withdraw him from the electoral lists (even death is not strong enough to nullify a candidate’s listing once the nominations are closed).

We all know where it went from there. It’s not like no one had heard about Julian Galea’s insipid pronouncements – Labour made it quite a point to have them broadcast all over the place. Armed with the knowledge of Galea’s behaviour any voter in his right mind would have desisted from even mistakenly marking the little square on the ballot beside the candidate’s disgraced name if only to spare him the ignominy of having to remaining in the public eye for an extended period of time.

Julian Galea was – how shall I put it kindly – not just not presentable but also supposedly unelectable. The only persons you’d expect would put their mark near his name in the hope of his getting elected to the Sliema council would be scheming Labourites hoping to capitalise on his glaring presence. Yet….

Julian Galea got 233 votes. Two centuries and a third. He “only” lost 60 votes from his previous tally in 2009. True he got elected on the 17th count when he had still not reached the quota of 517 having obtained 376 votes in all (inheriting 143 from other candidates). What would have been a miserable performance must be seen from another perspective though.  Who were those 233 souls who still rallied for Julian and his phobias?

Forget the noise from the pundits trying to desperately fit the Local Council shoe onto the twin ugly sisters’ General Election feet. This has nothing to do with labour/nationalist swings. It has nothing to do with the supposed “changing of Malta’s political demography”. Here you had the plain and simple reality of what makes up the bulk of Maltese politics.

On the eve of the elections we tried to warn you in “The Ugly Dress Rehearsal“. J’accuse described what the voter should be looking at in the candidates:

It should be obvious to anyone who stops to think for a moment that the ultimate consideration therefore when casting one’s vote is the competence and potential of the candidate. To summarise it more succinctly: It is not WHO is behind the candidate but rather WHO HE IS and WHAT HE STANDS FOR. 

Did the voters do any of that? Do the results of the Local Council Elections show us a discerning voter who is involved in large scale swings and confidence issues and is busy sending “messages” to this or that party? Not really no. You might enjoy the charade of conflicting interpretations that the PLPN circus is likely to feed you over the next coming weeks. You might love the myriad interpretations: “PN must listen. Labour has gained inroads in the North. Time for change.” Lahdidah.

In reality what happened is much simpler. Occam’s razor again. It rained. Heavily. Most people had had enough of the circus (except maybe Silvio Zammit). They just could not be bothered. Who bothered to go out to vote? The die-hards. They are the people who wouldn’t miss a trip to the ballot if they were dying. It’s ingrained. Their vote is tattooed on their brain. And then in Local Councils there are what we can assume to be the core of voters for each candidate. Families, neighbours, close friends who feel obliged to get their man in.

That is how Julian Galea, no matter what he says or does will keep getting at least around 250 votes every time he contests the Local Council elections. It is anything but an assessment of his capacity to convince voters to vote for him. If you want a litmus test for that just look at AD’s darling Mike Briguglio. In 2009 Mike got 457 votes and was not elected (Edward Cuschieri – PN – got elected on the 10th count in that election even though his first preference votes numbered 222). This time round his tally was 485 votes. Not much of a shift was there? That 28 vote increase transformed AD’s failure into success. Or at least we would like to think so.

Another way of reading the results – and by this I mean most of the results is that they are about as prophetic and indicative as tea leaves at the bottom of a teacup. Voters have neither swung nor used their votes to express any particular concern. Even less should we be worrying about those who did not bother to turn up.  Protest vote my foot. At this rate the only conclusion that I am willing to draw about these absentees is that they saw nothing available to make the trip to the ballot box worth it. More than a protest vote it is a lazily calculated snub at what  is on offer on the menu. I’m guessing there will be much less of these when the General Elections come along.

So there you have it. What have the LC Elections in 2012 taught us about your average voter? That he still remains that – average. The intelligent voter stayed at home this time round. He is still out there however.


Will the parties take note?


The Ugly Dress Rehearsal

They’re electing representatives of the people in a number of councils tomorrow. From Zebbug (Gozo) to Sliema (Malta) the voters who will bother to take a stroll to the polling booth will be electing a group of people who are supposedly best placed to manage the needs of their locality. That is the principle behind the process of administrative devolution that began in 1993 with the setting up of the local council system.  It’s almost twenty years now and the Kunsilli are ingrained in our political system of representation – for good or for bad – and ever since Labour’s rethink about participation in local politics they have also been a microcosm of our wider political field.

Ever since the times of Cicero, electoral campaigns for the municipium  were a hotly contested affair. As the wikipedia article will tell you the ultimate right for a citizen is the right to vote (civitas optimo iure) – something to be treasured above all. Ugly electoral campaigns are also not something new and notions of slander, corruption and dirty politics on the eve of elections were not exactly invented by the PLPN crowd. Nothing new under the sun there. So what to expect from tomorrow’s vote?

Well, the result per se, should technically not have a meaning beyond enabling us to understand whether our cives have become more intelligent with the use of their ultimate power. At the end of the day the municipal council that is elected in each locality will have an effect on the lives of its citizens via the decisions it takes. It should be obvious to anyone who stops to think for a moment that the ultimate consideration therefore when casting one’s vote is the competence and potential of the candidate. To summarise it more succinctly: It is not WHO is behind the candidate but rather WHO HE IS and WHAT HE STANDS FOR. 

And that is where we start to get complicated. Down on the ground, where it counts, I have no reason to suspect that every candidate contesting the elections and committing his or her time for a few years of civic duty has plans and ideas for the running of his locality. Even better I am sure that in the absolute majority of cases the interest is borne by a love of the locality and a desire to improve it or bring out the best in it. That is after all what the council election is about. All this happens behind the elaborate facade that is the involvement of the major political parties and it is not helped by the fact that this set of elections is the last official public scrutiny before the next general elections.

So we get the ugly dress rehearsal. Once again signs will be read where there are none. For the umpteenth time Labour will make a song and dance about winning local elections when in opposition. It’s not like we have not already been there. It is an exercise in collective dis-education.  Why? Because your criteria when voting for local representatives should be the competence of the candidates and not whether you are exercising your vote to send a message to the Prime Minister. If you are stupid enough to waste the great prerogative that you have to choose the best local representatives because you’d rather be sending some message to the PN government then your idea of how democracy works is seriously flawed.

Labour could not help itself though. Thanks to Franco Debono’s antics it was duped into campaign mode at what turns out to be a very early stage and is now desperately trying to keep the election mode going as much as possible. That is why although we are speaking about local councils and performance the national media is full of arrows and stabs aimed at the heart of “GonziPN”. And then there was the whole RecordingsGate. First Joanna Gonzi then Julian Galea then Gonzi again were caught on tape – unsurprisingly all the candidates were from Cyrus Engerer’s Sliema council. The public heard PN candidates utter the obvious – our inbred tribal hatred was suddenly there for all to see. The PN countered with a few clips of its own – giving the usual suspects pride of place in its counter-information exercise.

The relevance this had for Local Council politics was that it reinforced the idea that PLPN still do not bother to screen candidates to check their suitability for public office. Did we need the recordings to find that out? There is a paucity of political potential already as it is and the recordings only threw the truth into everybody’s face. From Mosta to Sliema the signs of an illness in our system were already evident. As for dress rehearsals for an election we saw the two behemoths unashamedly re-engage in slander and mud-slinging politics where content is relegated to the footnotes of a manifesto. There it was – a race to uncover the sleaziest candidate, long-forgotten criminal records unveiled and more. What should have been a legitimate exercise of democratic checks-and-balances became a witch-hunt.

Then came Muscat’s Iron Lady performance. As others have pointed out it was obvious were Muscat got his Assisian inspiration from. The Labour leader would have fared much better had he memorised another great line from the movie: It used to be about trying to do something, now it’s all about trying to be someone. And that really hits the nail on the head. With the politics of taste that were inaugurated early this century substance makes way for charades, for strutting and for many words that cannot be backed by thoughts and ideas. Values have been thrown out of the window and marketing and imagery is all the vogue.

With our politicians busy playing along the weary scripts and jumping from one pleasant bandwagon to the next in the hope of boosting their already bloated caricatures on this stage we have only a huge dramatic performance to look forward to come next national elections. For now we have been regaled with some very ugly scenes that made for a horrible dress rehearsal. 

But let us not forget that there cannot be a play or a charade without an audience. It brings me back to the intelligent use of the vote. It’s not, as many may think, simply an appeal to vote for alternattiva demokratika. It’s a much wider appeal for the citizen to finally live up to this immense responsibility and make the right choices. Look through the candidates. Look at them beyond the colours they represent and seriously ask yourself what you can see them doing six months down the line that can improve the state of your community. Accept any other criterion beyond that and you are making a fool of yourself. 

And as a fool, you might as well join the other pagliacci on stage….

Vesti la giubba,
e la faccia infarina.
La gente paga, e rider vuole qua.
E se Arlecchin t’invola Colombina,
ridi, Pagliaccio, e ognun applaudirà!
Tramuta in lazzi lo spasmo ed il pianto
in una smorfia il singhiozzo e ‘l dolor, Ah!

Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t’avvelena il cor!


Hate crimes, Nationalist Candidates and PLPN Emos

The latest smart cookie from the constellation of Local Council Candidates has hit the news. This time it is Julian Galea – nationalist candidate for the Sliema Council – who has been lucky enough to have been caught on “secret tape” declaiming among other things his “phobia of Labourites” and boasting how his Labour-leaning employees earn less than Nationalist employees. This exposé could not come at a better time in order to expose the ridiculous idea behind “hate crimes”. You had headlining this bit of news with a large sign saying “Stop Hating”.

It’s the DNA business all over again. One candidate or politician is caught expressing the thoughts that go through the heads of most fanatics of one of the two tribes any given day and suddenly we are all Padre Pios and discover our inner emos that are silently indignated by this offensive behaviour. How bloody typical.

Which is not in any way justifying what Julian Galea said. Julian Galea is your typical “anything goes” candidate like the Alexis Callouses (sic) of this world. He is a symptom of the abject inability of a party to shed its temptation to field as many candidates as possible without a proper screening. His “phobia” bullshit does not merit to be classified as a crime although we have a draft law that potentially will make it so. Incidentally with regards to the possibility of different pay for different political creeds we ALREADY have a law against that so no need for another one (and EU law enthusiasts will remember Defrenne vs Sabena). I vaguely suspect that he meant that Labourites are not high achievers and therefore end up on the lower end of the pay scale not that he pays on the basis of political allegiance – still, this does not make his talk any better or more palatable.

I too have a phobia. I have a phobia for stupid. It is a low threshold of tolerance and people like Julian Galea make my blood boil. So do the media manipulators who are now desperately trying to link his employment policy to GonziPN. Because it’s obvious isn’t it… if Julian Galea (I hadn’t heard of this geezer till today) thinks so then the PN must be endorsing this policy. But that is our politics. It has been for the past fifteen years now. Candidates not worth the poster their face is printed on, media frenzies of shit-stirring emptiness and a misguided appeal to values of convenience.

We are all emos now. It’s in our DNA.


Don't Believe the Hype

Fascinating. There’s only one way to describe the PN handling of the Arrigo spinoff of DimechGate. Fascinating and of course, unbelievable. Literally unbelievable. DimechGate included allegations of improper behaviour (let’s settle on that term) by Nationalist MP Arrigo, implying that he threw his weight around the Sliema Local Council quite a bit. Notwithstanding the pooh-poohing of columnists engaged in other important matters (footnote – 1) who tried to hide the glaring wart on PLPN politics that is the Sliema Local Council there was much there that merited consideration – and no it’s not Lilliputian, it’s the face and result of the “responsible voting” that went on last election (remember the accusations at those who urged for a vote for change?).

So Arrigo is under the microscope and this because, among other things, councillor Yves (Bobby) Cali went on record with the Times pointing his finger at Arrigo’s bravado actions in the council. He subsequently denied having actually said that so the Times published the transcript of what he said (footnote – 2). Then we have a PN MP accused of impropriety (“another one?” I hear you say). Which prompts the service of the PN disciplinarian bodies into action. The question is do they (A – not a footnote) Use the heavy hand of Paul and come down on the MP like a ton of righteous christian democrats and expect such punishments as “immediate resignations” et cetera et cetera? or do they (B – also not a footnote) Do the “Stand by Your man” tactic reserved for such elite politicians as PBO (VAT) and Tonio Fenech (VAT/Stamp Duty)?

It turns out that parliamentary considerations of a numerical kind – better known as the fictitive extra seat obtained thanks to a relative majority of seats thanks to the PLPN amendments – force the PN to deny the known truth. You see, the PN cannot and will not afford to toy with its one-man majority that can bring Humpty Dumpty, all the kings men, all his horses and all his disgruntled backbenchers tumbling down. Which is why when faced with a TRANSCRIPT of factual statements recorded by a journalist and a subsequent denial by the same person who uttered the transcribed words here is what the PN smart machine churned out:

The general secretary stood by the party’s declaration earlier this week when it took Mr Calì’s word that he never made the allegations, insisting that the transcript published by this newspaper was “not faithful to the statement of clarification made by Mr Calì”.

Lordy, lordy.  Do they actually read what they are saying? A transcript of a recorded conversation was not faithful to a statement of clarification. “He said that but he did not mean it… and we choose to believe what he meant not what he said”. Which is why PBO is still secretary general of the party. Because he is a medium and voyant and he can read the minds of his party members better than any other. Funny how the very same party chihuahas who described the attention afforded to the Sliema Council affair as watching “trouble in lilliput” barked (or should I say yapped?) this about Arrigo:

As Robert Arrigo tries to wriggle out of the Nikki Dimech/cocaine addiction/patronage/bribery mess down in Sliema, he must know that his chances of persuading the prime minister, against his wisdom, to make him part of his cabinet are now shot to hell. (…)

The party hierarchy, however, lost the battle to stop him standing for election to the Sliema council on its ticket in 1994, and he contested every Sliema council election after that until 2003, when the party finally relented and allowed him to stand on the PN ticket in the 2003 general election, no doubt because of the ‘all hands on deck’ nature of that election which would decide on Malta’s EU membership.

Because he was allowed to contest then and brought in enough votes to allow him to throw his weight around, he was selected for the PN ticket again in 2008.

– (Robert Arrigo: What a mistake that was – the Runs)

And now the party of values that confirmed the “all hands on deck” approach thru 2008 is having to back Arrigo come rain or shine as trouble is afoot in Lilliput. You know what they say … if you’ve got Lilliputian values don’t cry if you get Lilliputian politicians.

And Paul Borg Olivier ends up denying the hype…. you heard it first from Public Enemy….

The Footnotes
(1) Such as convincing the world that since the law on VAT and income tax makes no sense with regards to maids/cleaners/whateva then we are free to break it at will until a more sensible law is in place. Go figure – you’d actually think these people are experts on VAT (and its payment).
(2) and boo to you conspiracy theorists – the Times DO have priorities and this shows clearly that the moment they are backs against the wall being accused of lying they will forget their other loyalties

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All that Fuss in Sliema

Today’s breaking news is that Robert Webb lookalike Cyrus Engerer does not enjoy the confidence of the majority of Sliema councillors in his bid to be the new Deputy Mayor. The PN doo-doo is really piling high in that fortress of nationalist behaviour and there seems no end to the woes – disciplinary and others – facing the General Secretariat. Only last week Lawrence Gonzi paraded a new set of standards for PN elected local councillors and now there is a mini-revolt against central diktat.

For the no confidence motion in Engerer is also backed by a PN councillor – Mr Edward Cuschieri. Cuschieri has the backing of sufficient members to propose himself as the new Deputy Mayor. Spinmeisters will once again dismiss the goings on in Sliema as an insignificant fuss … but surely once the big machinery was set in motion to ensure tat the right hierarchy was in place this constitutes another setback to the PN?

That Robert Webb Look

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