Electoral Integrity goes beyond free and fair elections. It is a standard, based on democratic principles, with which political parties and candidates should conduct an election campaign. Malta will be going to a general election soon; an election that would determine, hopefully with an absolute majority, the people’s choice of government for a new legislature.
The political parties should concentrate on the way ahead and nothing else. The Nationalist party’s campaign seems to focus on the PL politics of thirty years ago. The new PN billboards, copied from a UK election campaign of 30 years ago, confirm this. Surely the PN must realise that the world has changed in these 30 years and what was acceptable then, might have been implemented; might be either unacceptable today or may have been superseded by other developments.
One very important principle, which seems to have been laid by the wayside, is the distinction between a political candidate and an individual. As a political candidate, a person should be scrutinised on his political standards and criticised accordingly, if need be. As an individual, human loyalty must be respected. Admittedly, politicians are public figures, but political media must respect the personal and political life of each candidate. The Labour party has been very careful in its choice of words and the PN would do well to follow these guidelines. As an example, Austin Gatt should refrain from calling fellow parliamentarians mad.
Another important issue is party funding. The Nationalist party has presented subtle opposition to the introduction of this bill. The constant appeals for donations that Paul Borg Olivier has been making, asking for contributions from a hard-up population do not augur well for the introduction of the bill on party financing. The PL has expressed various clear proposals on the bill on party funding but it is now obvious why the Gonzi government has been dragging its feet on his issue.
Luckily, in Malta there are very few claims of corrupt practices during a general election. We have had constitutional problems in the past, but the two major parties showed political maturity by changing whatever needed to be changed, although the result is not yet perfect. However, it is worrying to note that the Nationalist Party has twisted legitimate PL applications for the removal of ineligible voters, as an accusation that the PL wants to take one’s vote. Electoral integrity demands that all parties would work hand in hand to remove any ineligible voters from the electoral register.
Electoral Integrity is closely associated with Parliamentary integrity. The Government knows that it has lost its majority in Parliament and to justify itself the Gonzi government had said that Labour was in a similar situation 15 years ago and stayed 8 months before calling an election. Lawrence Gonzi has already broken this ‘record’. But even so, if it was wrong the, why is not equally wrong now? Why does Gonzi only emulate any possible wrong-doing and not the honourable way out for the good of the country?
Possibly the most serious breach of electoral integrity has occurred on the last few days in the past two elections. Dr. Fenech Adami’s lie during the final debate, for which he was convicted and fined, was matched by Dr. Gonzi’s lie that he was unaware of details about the JPO case, when it later transpired that he knew all about it and he even instructed Cachia Caruana to orchestrate it. This is politics at its lowest ebb. Hopefully, the PN leadership will not repeat this despicable act.