Tribalism in Malta and the need for a strong Third Party

It is no secret that politics in Malta has, for a long time, been plagued by party fanaticism and tribalism. To the typical Maltese person, the party that their family supports is a part of their identity, and it has little to do with their political ideology: one is “Nationalist” or “Labour” because he is born “Nationalist” or “Labour”, and not because he strongly believes in the actual values of either party.  So what made me decide to step outside of that traditional paradigm? 

One can easily understand why such a mindset is so toxic to Malta’s political landscape. Political parties in Malta need not uphold their own values, because they know that their supporters simply couldn’t care less. Robert Abela has an extremely different political ideology to that of Dom Mintoff, and yet a typical Labour supporter would praise both, because it doesn’t matter the way in which one governs as long as they are governing on behalf of the “right” party. 

When the Nationalist Party suggested the rather run of the mill ‘throw money at them’ distribution of 50 euro vouchers to combat business inactivity back in April, the suggestion was heavily criticised by Labour supporters. A LovinMalta poll revealed that at the time, 52% disagreed with the proposal. And yet a month later when the Prime Minister announced the distribution of 100 euro vouchers for the exact same reason, he was met with little to no criticism. This is because people in this country love to judge a policy not based on its own merits, but based on the party which brought it forward. Many floating voters have in turn been motivated by social and economic pressures, rather than ideological ones. We need to break the mindset that it is better to abstain than vote for a third party, and that the only alternative is one of the two major parties. It is a vicious circle which needs to be smashed once and for all.

This trend of strong party loyalty is perhaps one of the reasons that Malta has never had a third party elected on its own ticket to Parliament since Independence. Malta’s lack of multi-party representation in the House of Representatives is quite shocking when compared to other countries. For example, the House of Commons in the United Kingdom consists of nine parties in total, despite an electoral system which strongly discourages voting for third parties. In contrast, Malta’s voting system should, in theory, encourage third parties, since one has multiple choice. So what changed in Malta? It is not an exaggeration to say that our country has been in a civil war for generations; a cold war, but a war nonetheless. The two major parties hate one another so much, that they will bend any rule to keep each other out of power. What Malta needs is a paradigm shift away from this toxic approach to politics. People vote as much to keep their enemies out of power as much as they do out of loyalty.

It’s therefore about time that Malta has a strong and vocal third party: one with a clear ideology and strong values, which will not slowly become populist over time with the sole aim of securing votes and retaining power. It would of course be a challenge to battle in a political landscape that has made it so difficult for such a party to succeed, but difficult does not mean impossible. In recent years, old power structures across Europe have been challenged by new parties and personalities. These currents of change have been slower to reach Malta, but even here, people are increasingly hoping for a viable change, especially younger generations. I myself form a part of this surge of enthusiasm for an alternative from youths.

The youth wing of Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party has recently formed a new Executive committee and we are looking forward to working towards a better future for Malta. We actively work to promote the Green progressive principles of grassroots democracy, social justice, ecological justice, animal rights, civil and human rights; in line with the principles of Alternattiva Demokratika and Partit Demokratiku, which are in the process of merging into one party.

It’s about time for politics in Malta to become more open and diverse, as it has for far too long been restricted by the “same old, same old” red versus blue, which is nothing more than a race to the bottom. Resources and people ready to take the plunge do not grow on trees, it is not a walk in the woods. However, if people have the courage to vote for what they truly believe in, to lend their support and help, then together we can save our country from infighting and secure a better tomorrow. We could become a normal European country. All of this is why I decided to stand up and be counted.

Katrina Cassar
PRO, ADŻ – Green Youth
Published in the Maltatoday – Sunday 9 August 2020