Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Monkey Business in a Banana Republic

It was bemusing to read Victor Scerri, arch advocate of the petrified status quo, ranting in favour of the worst of all worlds - unstable dictatorships masquerading as democracies, and with nothing to show for it (Electoral Changes, Times of Malta, December 29).

The president of the Nationalist Party's general council purported to save Malta and Gozo from a fate worse than democratic governance.

According to his feverish thesis, awful perils lurk in wait lest we attempt to tread the slippery path to representative democracy.

He seems to find it inconceivable that a small party ought to be entitled to representation in Parliament by garnering votes across the country and overcoming a "low" threshold of five per cent, a gross incongruity on his part, given that that was precisely what the 1995 Gonzi Commission proposed.

In addition, his party suggested a 7.5 per cent threshold as recently as 2006. Today, however, Dr Scerri finds it unthinkable, insisting instead on a 16.6 per cent threshold to safeguard Parliament against "anarchy".

What remains a perennial mystery is why his party was so keen on Malta joining the EU in the first place. With the notable exception of Malta and the UK, it provides Dr Scerri and his ilk with endless examples of the bleakest of political realities imaginable: "anarchic" governments, comprising minority administrations, coalitions, cross-party cooperation and parliamentary consensus.

One wonders how, for all its execrable political instability, Italy has managed to become the world's 10th largest economic power. Can one fathom the political puzzle of how "coalition-ridden" Holland manages to contrive a GDP larger than the 10 EU accession countries in 2004 combined? Dr Scerri's brazen implication, that what is good for successful pluralist ganders is not good enough for feudal goose Malta, beggars belief.

The phobia of consensus politics, afflicting the MLP and the PN, has impelled them to conspire to entrench single-party minority government with absolute power, rather than one tempered by the discipline of responsible transparent accountability to Parliament. To achieve their ends, they have foisted an electoral mechanism on the nation to ensure absolute single-party rule with a minority of the vote, as opposed to governance by an absolute majority of the electorate, if such a majority is composed of more than one political party.

Questionable arithmetic; specious democracy. It is a blatant obscenity illustrative of how absolute power equates to absolute dishonesty.

Where will it all end?

By imposing a 16.6 per cent threshold, the PN and the MLP have attempted to devise a means to deny parliamentary representation to other parties, thereby spawning an electoral imbroglio in which they stand to hijack absolute power while falling further and further below the 50 per cent mark. Will they really squabble about the proportionality between them when they are each around the 42 per cent mark, give or take a point or two? That is most unlikely given that it would nevertheless guarantee the autocratic, albeit "stable", single-party government Dr Scerri so cravenly seeks.

Nonetheless, it may never come to this. Alternattiva Demokratika can elect an MP without exceeding the 16.6 per cent threshold. In the last election, 11 MPs secured their seats in Parliament without reaching the quota in their electoral districts. It happens almost every time. AD and representative parliamentary democracy itself might likewise succeed by doing so.

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