Today is the last day of electoral campaigning, and I for one can honestly say that this has to be one of the longest months of my life. Since the official announcement made by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on May 1st, the contending parties have managed to cram in every piece of information from their electoral manifestos, into the minds of each and every Maltese citizen.
Ads, billboards, meetings, flyers were simply a taster of the cacophony of political confusion. Many individuals must be longing for next Monday when the shouting and mass parading will ultimately have come to an end. For students, this mainly means more peace and quiet as the exam period is already in full swing (unless you’re procrastinating that is). For others, fellow commuters, this means less traffic congestion during political events; although please note when I say “less traffic”, I use the term very loosely.
The campaign has seen the two largest parties, The Labour Party, led by Joseph Muscat, and the Nationalist Party, led by Simon Busuttil, embroiled in a very heated exchange. In case the campaign trail was too overwhelming to follow, this is a quick rundown of some of the main proposals:
Partit Laburista has brought forth a number of key proposals namely tax cuts for part-time workers -with the income tax dropping from 15% to 10%, tax refunds on individuals who earn up to €60,000 and, most notably, tax exemptions to anyone graduating from a Masters or PhD degree. Dr Muscat has also proposed to give all citizens an official day of leave from work during the week to compensate for the public holidays that fall on a weekend. A €700M fund will also be used for the general maintenance and revamp of all the roads on the island. Meanwhile, there will be more help to first time property buyers as well, whilst they guaranteed that no government projects will take place in ODZ land.
Partit Nazzjonalista, who have formed a coalition with the newly formed Partit Demokratiku have been geared to undertake the cleaning up of the political scene through their Forza Nazzjonali campaign. Their proposals have focused on appointing a new Police Commissioner as well as a Special Investigative Magistrate on Corruption. The opening of a constitutional conference has also been guaranteed by the coalition. Dr Busuttil has stated that the coalition will give each and every Gozitan family a €10,000 grant to live in Gozo whilst also declaring that Gozo will become constitutionally recognised as a region by itself. Amongst all of this, gender quotas have been proposed with the intention of balancing out departments within the Government. Meanwhile, they’ve also proposed a new metro system that will connect the island, free childcare for all and a series of tax cuts affecting self-employed workers, small business and other sectors of the population.
Voting may seem like a matter of choice for us, however, in certain countries, this is a completely different reality. ‘Mandatory voting’ is a compulsory act of voting, which people of a legal voting age must abide by. Certain countries enforce penalties to citizens who do not partake in the voting process. Despite Malta not being a country that enforces mandatory voting, turnouts for general elections have been considerably high, with just the previous election reaching a staggering 95% voter turnout, whilst countries like the U.S just scrape the 50% margin. This is a very high turnout, even by European Standards.
Maltese citizens have their own agenda as to why they vote. Malta’s polarising political landscape is the foundation on the way they reason out their political views. Many ‘traditionalists’ vote for their respective party as it has been in some way or another like a ‘family tradition’, without feeling the need to oppose their families as well as their own ideology. “In- nannu vvota hekk, missieri vvota hekk, u issa jien se nivvota hekk.” Others vote according to their self-interest, where it is more likely to obtain a job. Some vote with the true intention of ‘Making Malta Great’ as 89.7 Bay put it, and sometimes people do not vote at all with the simple fact that they are unphased by politics in general; alternatively, people abstain their vote in the hope of sending a message to their respective party with their growing discontent.
“Self-interest drives Maltese voters because every issue is in their backyard; in such a small country, nothing is truly distant.”
I have heard a multitude of reasons throughout the campaign stating their reasons as to why they will not be voting: “I didn’t bother listening to the election.”; “So what? Mhux Labour or PN. I don’t even like either one of them.”; “Whatever, politics is boring anyway,” and last but certainly not least “X’jimpurtani! Ma taffetwanix.”
Not trusting a party is a normal feeling to have. It is a common factor, especially amongst first-time voters. That being said, the decision that the people take at election time, DOES affect you. One shouldn’t simply discard their vote away due to uncertainty or simply not caring. Sit down and evaluate your options. Voters commonly feel stuck in a lesser of the two evils dilemma, where whatever they choose may come back to haunt them. As much as it may feel that there isn’t a viable option for the Maltese people, that is far from the truth. Parties tend to just appeal to the people to acquire your vote, however, if you are the individual to feel that way, take the opportunity to vote for a party that in some way, shape or form shares your ideology.
It is unfortunate that as a country we have a number of political parties, though we only feel that the two major parties are the ones that exist. This isn’t for a lack of trying either, it simply boils down to our society’s mentality on politics. What I am saying is in no way promoting any of the parties. My point here is that people more often than not, do not vote for who they believe in, but only whom people closest to them tell them to. My colleague, Emma Sammut, recently wrote a piece on political bias within our country in which she stated:
“We are not genetically or inherently disposed to believing one party over the other.”
My message to each and every single voter is to think before you act. Your vote is worth more than you make it out to be. Do not let anyone influence your judgement. A vote is a vote, regardless who you give it to. It’s not a betrayal to your family, your friends or your community if your support differs to theirs; and brush off anyone who has ever told you “You’re wasting your vote.” Voting shouldn’t have to feel like a burden and neither like it is a family tradition. It’s a choice, so make the right choice, whatever it is, whether you feel more inclined to vote red, blue, orange, green or any other colour under the sun; that vote is yours, so on Saturday 3rd June, do not waste it.