Off with a whimper

The campaign is at an early stage. The positive aspect of the campaign is, so far, weak. The negative aspect is still non-existent. It will probably be launched full blast in the second week

The election campaign launched by Robert Abela last Sunday is off with a whimper. I hardly remember an election campaign where the first shots were so tame.

Commenting on the election logos of both the PN and the PL, communications guru Gorg Mallia said they are ‘completely unimaginative’ – a reflection, perhaps, of a tame electoral campaign where the eventual winner is a foregone conclusion.

The Labour Party’s first shot was the pledge to create five large public parks in busy towns – hardly the stuff of serious thinking about the future direction of this country. It is an attempt at placating environmentalists, of course. Good idea but the serious political thinking behind the proposal is, frankly, zilch.

The PN had a more significant opening shot. It proposed ten sectors for investment that would create thousands of new jobs. This is more serious stuff, of course. The PN however did not explain why we need 3,000 new jobs in a time of full employment. Mind you, one appreciates that these would be high-end technical jobs that will be very beneficial to the economy – much more than selling passports or employing everybody with the state.

However, the proposal misses a very important fact: with the education system as it is, there will not be enough candidates to take up these potential jobs. Will Malta be investing to give jobs to foreigners?

Education, it seems, is not high on the agendas of the two political parties, which shows the short-sightedness of both of them. Malta has a big problem with the large percentage of youngsters – mostly male – who leave school at an early age without completing secondary education, a veritable statistic that shames us when compared with what happens in the rest of the EU.

Up to the time of writing, nobody mentioned this, probably because – frankly – this is no vote-catcher.

Often, a country’s real problems do not worry unduly the voters, many of whom make their choices based on traditional political allegiances or on much more personal pecuniary considerations.

If the intellectual level of our voters is down there, the political parties are duty-bound to fight this phenomenon. In Malta, they lower their standards to placate the uninformed.

Were it not for the PN’s great candidate massacre, nothing would have been newsworthy in the first few days of the campaign. However the announcement that Nationalist MPs Clyde Puli, Kristy Debono and Mario Galea were asked not to contest the election as PN candidates led to political shockwaves. The addition of Claudio Grech to the list of MPs who are not contesting the election made it worse.

Labour tried to capitalise on this development by a clever poster saying that the PN’s decision to drop four candidates is a sign of the division in the party that would be reflected in the country, were it to be elected. Of course, this was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Labour has been changing their parliamentary group ever since Robert Abela was elected leader.

Abela did it slowly – slowly, while the PN made it in a one-fell-swoop move, shaking the trust of those of the party faithful who still believe the PN should be a broad church.

The way the PN discarded the first three was a first for the PN – something that had never happened in the PN in the last 70 years. There were instances when persons were, in fact, thrown out of the party by the PN executive – but debarring previously approved PN MPs from standing again for election was unheard of. But this is what actually happened behind the back of the PN executive, whatever the PN says officially.

In the case of Claudio Grech, the tactic was to make it very difficult for him to get elected. This is how the PN machine works, more often than not, quite ruthlessly. This must be the reason why he opted out.

The last time I met Claudio Grech, at his request, he was raring to go, hardly in the mood of side-stepping to make space for new blood. So Claudio was to prepare the electoral programme and then discarded... Another shameful way of doing things for those who pretend they have the divine right to say what the PN is all about.

The campaign is at an early stage. The positive aspect of the campaign is, so far, weak. The negative aspect is still non-existent. It will probably be launched full blast in the second week. Expect some spectacular fireworks and a lot of damp squibs.

Pleasures yet to come.

Ukraine invasion

The Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba described the latest Russian moves in his country as a war of aggression. Whatever Vladimir Putin says, or whatever his pretext, a full-scale invasion of Ukraine is on.

After calling Ukrainian statehood a fiction in a bizarre televised address, he issued a decree recognizing the independence of two separatist-held regions in Ukraine and sending troops there. And from that point, a full-scale invasion was on.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote that Putin is making a historic mistake.

Albright was the first senior U.S. official to meet with Vladimir Putin in 2000 in his new capacity as acting president of Russia. She recalled Putin speaking unemotionally and without notes about his determination to resurrect Russia’s economy. In her note she had written: “Putin is small and pale, so cold as to be almost reptilian.” She added that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Putin was embarrassed by what happened to his country and was determined to restore its greatness.

According to Albright, Putin’s revisionist and absurd assertion that Ukraine was “entirely created by Russia” and effectively robbed from the Russian empire is fully in keeping with his warped world-view.

Albright says that like other authoritarians, Putin equates his own well-being with that of the nation and opposition with treason.

He is sure that Americans mirror both his cynicism and his lust for power and that in a world where everyone says lies, he is under no obligation to tell the truth.

History teaches us that wars are started by leaders whose personal foibles, misjudgements and unjustified assertions blind them to pursue their ambitions with violence and hostility to others.