The Times 24 June 2011
The divorce referendum process could be read in many ways. One of them could be to analyse the ideological and strategic orientations of the political parties in Malta.
It seems that the same Nationalist Party that took Malta out of the political dark ages of the 1980s has become a victim of its own success. Malta’s environment is in ruins and economic inequalities have increased, notwithstanding the fact that Malta’s economy is relatively stable and successful. As regards values and civil liberties, the dominant ideology within the Nationalist Party seems to be one that is archaic, confessional and out of synch with the aspirations of thousands of people.
The PN now has to decide whether its rupture with liberal new middle class voters was something temporary, or whether it will seek to ally itself with this politically important category once again. Surely, with ministers who base their opinions on “holy” visions and allies who think that Malta is some form of presepju fil-Mediterran, I cannot expect the PN to become a secular party, nor to do away with its ties with big business interests. Indeed, hoping that the PN suddenly becomes the natural home of gay rights activists, environmentalists and new social movements is wishful thinking to say the least.
Labour, on the other hand, played a cynical strategic game in the divorce issue which, however, paid its dividends. With Joseph Muscat and Evarist Bartolo as frontliners for the pro-divorce cause, Labour immediately proclaimed itself as victor after the referendum result. Of course, had the No camp been victorious, Labour would have depicted a different image of itself, emphasising that the party did not have an official position on divorce.
Labour’s strategy is to aim to please everyone at the same time. As I already had the occasion to say in previous articles, this strategy might win elections, but I doubt whether it will change anything at all. A party that promises everything to everyone at the same time might face the same implosion as happened to Alfred Sant in the 1990s. I mean, what will Labour in power do when it faces environmentalists and hunters, residents and big business contractors, workers’ unions and employers, who would all want their pound of flesh?
Having Green parliamentary representation, and more importantly Green presence in government, will help ensure that Malta moves closer to a liberal European democracy based on progressive and sustainable aspirations. Of course, this would require compromise and negotiation but this is the essence of politics, where power is productive.
What are the main principles of Alternattiva Demokratika? I will refer to five key principles which are essential for us Greens.
First, social justice. We believe that there cannot be progress without social equality, responsibility and sustainability. Referring to the Social Europe model, Malta should strengthen its welfare state system to guarantee inclusion in the labour market and a decent standard of living to all. We believe in decent and accessible public services such as public transport, housing, inclusive education, public health and safety in our localities. These requirements need sustainable financing and progressive taxation systems.
Second, civil rights. We believe in a truly democratic, secular and progressive society where diversity is celebrated and protected within a context of pluralism, reciprocal respect and civil liberties.
We oppose all forms of discrimination irrespective of one’s gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion or belief, race or ethnicity, or any other status, and strongly believe that equality should be mainstreamed in all social policies. Malta needs to honour its human rights obligations at all times.We will therefore work to strengthen the freedom of the press and the modernisation of censorship laws.
Third, environmental justice. We believe that ecology is a holistic chain and therefore we support sustainable development, the protection of the environment and animal welfare and rights. We are also actively involved in the struggles of local communities to defend their quality of life against overdevelopment.
Fourth, sustainable development and ecological modernisation. We believe in a sustainable society that incorporates economic, environmental and social priorities. In the process, green jobs can be created in sectors such as tourism, renewable and clean energy, waste management, research and the production of food. Such jobs should be characterised by decent pay and work conditions.
Last but not least, democracy. AD believes in a participative and pluralistic democracy based on the rule of law, subsidiarity, adequate checks and balances to ensure a separation between constitutional powers and legal safeguards which serve as effective deterrents against corruption and the dominance of economic interests and egoistic lobby groups. This requires clear rules regulating party financing, electoral reform, greater autonomy of the judiciary from government, clear distinction between the state and political parties and complete separation between State and Church. In a world marked by globalisation, democracy can only be safeguarded through more integration and the strengthening of the EU’s democratic and representative structures.
The Green vision is clear, and everyone knows where he or she stands with us. As the divorce referendum has shown us, citizens have a very powerful tool – the vote – which can be used to help bring about progressive and sustainable change. Let’s use this tool wisely.
The author is chairman and spokesman for economy and finance of Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party