Within a few hours of the publication of this piece, we should have an idea who our Prime Minister will be for the next five years and which party is to run the country.
It has been a tough and rigorous campaign, no doubt. Many people have even described it as highly divisive. I do not think there has ever been a general election on these Islands that wasn’t. The territorial limits of our political arena and the parochial nature of the Maltese political psyche make sure of that.
It is what happens after the first indications are announced that will, however, show the world how politically mature we have become. The carnivalesque aspect of our electoral campaigns is a long-established adornment. Many even find it amusing, because as long as there is not the violence of decades ago or unprecedented levels of tension, it is ok to have fun, enjoy the beer and the rides, wave the flags and dance to the music.
The most important thing, now that the die is indeed cast, is for the nation to find the munificence to reunite. Most of the responsibility falls directly on the shoulders of the winning party, be it the incumbent or the Opposition. So much angst has been hurled in daily exchanges between the two sides, there has been so much vitriolic coming across, and people have been so thoroughly bombarded with contrasting views and visions, that the repair job needs to be quick, reassuring and, most important, credible. Just the nice, predictable words that victors characteristically utter in their first reactions will not do.
The same goes for the losers, of course. If one cannot be gracious in defeat, he can at least bite his tongue.
Malta has to come to her senses as quickly as possible. We have just been through yet another genuinely democratic exercise, a privilege many bigger and stronger nations across the world still do not enjoy. There is pride to be had in that, but there are also the dangers should the political leaders of this country fail to come up with the right words, the right attitude and the right openness.
A snap general election, intentionally and rightly called to inflict as little damage as possible to the national economy, cannot be left to sow instability. Malta, with absolutely no resources other than her own people, has always had – and will continue to have – a services-piloted economy. Maltese men and women continue to excel in the provision of these services in various sectors, particularly tourism, air and sea craft maintenance, e-gaming and financial services. Continued political turmoil could threaten all the successes of the last 15 years, including the incredible boom of the past four of them.
Stability is the ultimate reassurance that our thriving economy needs at this moment in time when Malta and the Maltese have been effectively showing they are on a par, in certain aspects even better, with the rest of Europe’s citizens. Whoever is, sometime near noon today, declared the winner has to bear all this in mind before rushing to the scriptwriters. Give our people the chance to regroup and to reunite by openly showing their natural disposition for trust and enterprise, regardless of the two colours that have dominated Malta’s urban skyline over the past few weeks,.
Masses of celebrating and disappointed supporters both need urgent attention. Going through a stressful election campaign unscathed is already a major achievement, now for the repair job. This cannot involve vendetta or spite, and I am more than confident that our top politicians, on both sides of the ideological divide, are able and willing to take on this challenge. It is expected of them, after all.
Bitterness cannot be allowed to overcome the general wish for reconciliation, in whichever form and process this is arrived at. Triumphalism, on the other hand, is always a temptation to the victor, but the wisdom to avoid it is a much more treasured triumph in itself. Certainly needed are the winner’s and loser’s guiding wings under which the nation can come comfortingly out of this umpteenth electoral experience; starting today.
On a personal note, throughout this election campaign I have, disturbingly, been asked awkward questions by some people, very few of them I hasten to add, regarding my continued writing in this newspaper given my personal political views and its editorial policy line. I just shrugged away the inanity behind the questions.
Not only have I been writing in The Malta Independent on Sunday since its inception in the early 90s, I can also publicly acknowledge there has not been a single occasion when an editor of the paper chose or even tried to blue-pencil any of my views, comments and inferences. The fact that my writings have often been in absolute contrast to the paper’s editorial, not necessarily always independent views, has never worried me and, to their credit, it does not seem to have caused any sleepless nights to anyone at Standard House.
The Maltese print and electronic media, whether openly biased or self-perceived independent, have come a long way towards the establishment of a free and healthy exchange of ideas and views among their columnists and bloggers. As the Manchester protesters recently sang after that horrid act of terrorism, let us not look back in anger.