Democracy is the best form of political governance that has been practiced throughout the ages. It is by no means perfect, but in theory it gives ordinary people the right to determine who should lead them for a defined period of time. Of course, both form and substance are important in the practice of political democracy. The formal rules of a parliamentary democracy are quite well defined and not all that complex. Ensuring that these rules give substance to such a democracy is quite another matter.
Prime Minister Gonzi is prepared to follow the formal rules of democratic governance, but is showing arrogant disrespect to the substance of political democracy. Yes, Gonzi has formal authority to govern this country for a full 5 years plus a few months as defined by the Constitution as long he wins every money bill and vote of confidence in parliament. So far he has managed to do this - at times thanks to the casting vote of the speaker. But should this be the yardstick to determine whether this country is living the spirit of democracy?
Gonzi ignores the fact that two if not three of his deputies in parliament have declared that they no longer support him at least on some important issues including the annual budget that should be presented to parliament in the next few weeks. Various tests of public opinion have also indicated that for the good of the country the Prime Minister should call an election sooner rather than later to avoid any further uncertainty that is affecting the economy and therefore the livelihood of many families.
But through sheer arrogance the Prime Minister decides to ignore the substance of true democratic governance and insists on sticking to the form that give him the right to stay put until he loses a vote of confidence in parliament. What is he gaining by doing this? He is certainly not gaining the respect of the silent majority including thousands of his own supporters.
He is probably trying to write his own political obituary by insisting that his inevitable defeat would not have been caused by any leadership failures on his part, but by the treachery of one or two of his own colleagues. If frustrating tens of thousands of hard working families is the price that has to be paid to achieve this aim, then so be it.
We have wasted a year plodding from one political crisis to another. Parliamentary sittings have been frozen for several months to avoid embarrassing defeats for the government. Important decisions needed to strengthen the restructuring of the economy have also been frozen lest the public anger against the government should become more vociferous. Pensions’ reforms, the strengthening of our financing model for our national health service as well as for our educational system have been left on the back burner while our national debt continues to get out of hand.
Nero plays the fiddle while Rome burns. Gonzi is at peace with his conscience as he insists that he is following the rules of democracy. Most of us know that what he is really doing is pouring scorn on good political practice that should be at the heart of parliamentary democracy.
So GonziPN will go down in history as the politician who was more interested in influencing how history will judge his political failures, rather than in putting the interest of hard working people first and foremost in his political agenda.