House is a genre of electronic dance music characterised by a repetitive four-on-the-floor beat and a typical tempo of 115 to 130 beats per minute. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the basics of this article’s arguments.
So, the House referred to in the title of this piece is indeed the House of Parliament of our Republic, majestically built in modernist Piano style at the entrance of our capital which cost the country coffers an arm and a leg due to many shady reasons, all dumped in the past and glorious PN period. Where the concept of corruption and back-handing was alien to us all. It is the House which is supposed to support and host the democratically elected representatives of the people. Fine, virtuous people who have entered public life to do good and to aid and assist the community from whence they came.
Or so it goes, in theory. But, wait. Imagine! (Again, no musical lapsus here or John Lennon induced lyricism). Imagine a broad Mercator map of the world hung in front of the wall directly in front of you. Your eyes wander across the familiar depictions of creamy and brownish continents featured against the azure spread of the oceans and the seas. Somewhere in the middle of the map, you will notice an interesting chunk of land which is bound by its backside to the vast Asian continent which dominates the right side of this Mercator mapping anachronism. That would be the European continent. Its southern region, aptly described by Winston Churchill during the Second World War as its soft underbelly, has a funny looking isthmus, crudely shaped in the earthen format of a boot. That would be Italy. The boot has a distinct piece of brown triangle just next to its ‘toe tip.’ That would be the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, the latter also depicted in blue on the wall map. The African continent lies on the other side of this blue, with the large virgin Libyan sandy coast holding the southern reaches of the sea of Hercules.
Somewhere in between, there is what looks like a minute piece of black dirt stuck slap bang in the middle of the Med. That would be Malta. A proud island state and republic which is microscopic in size but humungous in its will to project itself as a much greater land mass and nation than it really is. Covering an area of a mere 27km by 14.5km, Malta is one of the smallest states in the world.
Palermo, the capital of the neighbouring Italian region of Sicily, has one and a half times our population. It has one Mayor and eleven Assessori. Currently, there are 68 elected Local Councils (54 on the Island of Malta and 14 on the island of Gozo) responsible for managing and delivering a limited number of specific services at a local level. Which means that we have 68 Mayors, 68 Council Executive Secretaries and more than four hundred Councillors supposedly taking care of our miniature community at a local level. And that is without referring to our local Regional structure.
When it comes to the House of Representatives, we are now looking at a very similar scenario. The smallest EU nation has the highest number of parliament members per 100,000 inhabitants. We have slowly but surely increased a sixty five seat Parliament to an eighty seater. Labour has introduced a gender balancing mechanism which immediately bestows twelve female MPs to the crop of elected MPs on both sides of the House. The reasoning behind such gender balancing contrivances is noble at heart. It gives even more power to woman and more space for them to theoretically participate in political representation.
The smallest EU nation has the highest number of parliament members per 100,000 inhabitants.
But it has also sparked controversy. In the old days, the vast majority of members of parliament on both sides of the house commanded an aura of respect and projected an image of wise statesmanship. The people believed in them, irrespective of their political orientation. This does not mean that all past and present members of parliament were infallible geniuses with an Einstein intellect and a Bergoglian sanctity.
But now we have a scenario wherein an electoral system which supposedly catapults to the House of Parliament the people’s representatives as elected and voted for by the former, does exactly the opposite. Irrespective of the MPs being male or female, one does not elect MPs who got a couple of scores of votes from their electorate simply because we created a mechanism to do so due to gender.
There are other methods which can directly assist female political participation across the board. One solely has to keep in mind that, to date, Parliament has no planned out child care assistance for its female members. Such mechanisms as the one just introduced during this election are merely stop gap gender procedures which, albeit positive to the cause per se, cannot be seen as the solution in the long run. If things remain the same and the country is left without an effective opposition, it has to be the Labour Party again which will have to look at the electoral process in its entirety and execute a holistic and radical change to the whole operation instead of piecemeal ‘fix-its.’
Piecemeal ‘fix-its’ merely dilute the level of quality of parliamentarians. I do not want to be cruel in this article and hence no names will be mentioned, but everyone and the butler knows of numerous instances where past members of parliament, a small fraction of whom are unfortunately still in the House, had the habit of making fools of themselves in this supposedly highest of institutions. In Maltese, one would say ‘jaqgħu għan-nejk’. Which reminds me of Edward Heath’s famous quote on the subject matter. He said, ‘There’s a lot of people I’ve encouraged and helped to get into the House. Looking at them now, I am not so sure it was a wise thing to do.’
Which brings me to the House again. And the interesting titbit of information that we have now, by means of said mechanism, the youngest member of parliament in the world in the form of conservative extremist Eve Borg Bonello. IN THE WORLD! Which really makes sense after all, since eighteen year olds are focused on their advanced level examinations rather than representing their peers in the highest of institutions. At least, that is the norm all across the world, save Malta. Because Malta always has to be different. We now have an ex-Head girl of a church school who mistakenly and naively thinks that women use abortion as a means of contraception. We now have a sitting MP who has reached this position specifically because of a Labour government legislation which she has emphatically stated she does not agree with. She has also many a time castigated Labour because, according to her warped logic, Labour has fucked up her future. Well there you go, Onorevoli. Quite a fuckup receiving a monthly, honoraria cheque for representing peers who are miles away from your social, economic, moral and political thinking.
The electorate voted, indeed shouted out, maverick and stubborn members of parliament of the likes of Jason Azzopardi. From both electoral districts he contested. And the bye-election as well. The electorate voted out the ultra-conservative MPs of the likes of Edwin Vassallo. We now have an eighteen year old Eve promising us the apple of conservatism from the House.
That is why the whole electoral system needs to be properly evaluated and holistically changed. I am one hundred percent positive that Labour will, as always, rise to the occasion here as well. It is now a standard Labour Party landmark to trail-blaze change in all aspects of society which positively affect our community. One can be almost certain of that. Well, the only thing I am certain of is that I do not want to be in Bernard Grech’s shoes at the moment. If the first fortnight immediately after the election are reliable presages of things to come, then I am afraid that the Nationalist Party is still miles away from being ready for the coming 2027 general elections. Time will tell.