This year, it was time to take it back to the people to decide who should represent their interests in the House of Representatives. And on Sunday, we got our answer. The Labour Party gained itself another landslide victory for the books. This was no surprise for some, for the surveys have long been registered in every survey calculated by independent statisticians.
We can counter this by saying that the ultimate survey is the actual election, rather than a sample of data subjects- case in point Brexit and the 2016 U.S Presidential Election. But, we are not statisticians, nor will we mask ourselves to be as such.
On election day, a couple of issues made both parties scared of the ultimate outcome. A low turnout by 2pm in the afternoon, coupled with voter abstention. The latter is subject to many criticisms, for its obvious feigning of the democratic process, but neither is that the subject of today’s discussion. There are more fundamental issues which us, common mortals, have seen and fathomed, from the day the Prime Minister announced the date of the election, till the moment the result was announced.
The Opposition lost the minute it stopped believing in itself
The Nationalist Party focused more on two major issues which tacitly defined their performance: the first would be that they defined their own destiny, and the second would be their obsession with finding a needle in a haystack in Robert Abela. There are many reasons why the Opposition’s rigour may have led to such an insufferable loss for them, but one reason in particular was that in its rigour, the Opposition had already manifested a loss and was happy to accommodate a lower landslide than that of the 2017 election. At the risk of sounding like a complete cliché, they aimed lower than what they were probably capable of. The phrase ‘shoot for the stars, aim for the moon’ hits home here, because rather than strengthening and concocting political emancipation, they diminished the entire message of the campaign. Their microscopic focus on Robert Abela and their nostalgic history in government, rather than on themselves and how they are the alternative government that some have long desired, defined their message and may have very well cost them their manifested chance of a lower gap in the final result.
The crisis we never knew we’d have: An Opposition
A landslide is certainly something which at first glance, is something which some might have expected, maybe not in the final quantified amount given by the Electoral Commission. But, for those who prefer to engage on a more meaningful stride, this can be somewhat problematic. First, let us absolve the idea that this is some sort of praise for the Labour Party. The Nationalist Party probably never envisaged or fathomed that it would find itself sitting on the Opposition side of Parliament, and has probably not even registered, that before it can be an alternative government, it must understand what it means to be in Opposition. After years in Government, you would think that some sort of sentiments have changed.
But, there is probably more to it. The Nationalist Party is facing an identity crisis en masse. The reality is that conservatism and people who think the world of themselves, while they have a place in the party, should not exclude others from giving a contribution. One would ask, how can an inherently christian democratic party, with conservative roots, balance itself out to give a more palatable choice to the electorate? Till now, it has definitely not demonstrated that it can.
Labour shouldn’t get too comfortable
A landslide victory is definitely one for the books for the Labour Party, but everyone knows that there is one factor which militates against the Labour Party- the risk of getting too comfortable with the landslide and dealing with dissent and the Opposition. When it comes to power, we think of the Stanford Prison Experiment, carried out by Professor Philip Zimbardo. The aim was to examine the situation of the participants’ behaviours in a two-week controlled simulation- the crux of the matter? Persons entrusted with power.
In the televised debate, held by the Broadcasting Authority, Abela took a self-effacing position when faced with the question, where he maintained that whatever the difference in votes, his newly formed government will remain humble. This would mean that, when something is not as we expected or voted for, we the people, have the power to question and hold politicians accountable for their shortcomings. Will Labour remain sensitive to the public’s opinion, or welcome dissent and criticism with open arms and admit that they have no problem in doing better? The one thing we do know is that time will tell.
Third Parties are in the picture
When the result of the election was announced, we saw a higher participation from third parties. Some right-wing fundamentalists who have ostracised pro-choice advocates, other centre-progressive candidates with the environment as their core driving force. From the results of the general election, it would appear that third parties have gained a much greater share of the pie than we expected, which overall, is great news. This could be for a wide array of reasons however, time and time again, we have had criticisms over how our two-party system can sometimes blind us of other options and the problems it brings along. From the results of the election, it would appear that third parties are making a more prominent footing and are here to stay. Even one seat for a third party is considered a victory.
We need electoral reform, urgently.
Time and time again, the way our electoral system for general elections works has time and time again been the subject of much criticism, and rightly so. Some candidates, which many would have wanted in Parliament, may not run in one’s district, and the idea of doing things solely for those in one’s district, immaterial of who is leading, for the sake of getting elected, does not bide well with the very idea of a democracy. Both parties have maintained that they are open to electoral reform in the new legislature. Could we see a new national threshold? What would the effects of this be? A serious discussion and consequential reform, should be on top of the agenda for this matter.