Along Party Lines

During the recent months, if not the past few years, the Maltese political landscape has consolidated itself to what seems to be an indefinite two-party state, with any chance of having three or even more parties in parliament being extremely difficult, if not completely impossible. This re-dimensioning of the political climate however is not just limited to Malta however, as we can clearly see it taking place elsewhere.

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The last time there were more than two political parties represented in the Maltese Parliament was before the 1966 general election, following which, it was evident that the Labour Party and Nationalist Party had won the hearts and minds of the people. One can to a certain extent say that this mould has been broken by the presence two Democratic Party MP’s in Parliament since the last general election in 2017, but it would be a stretch too far to say that this means that the duopoly has been eradicated overnight. As it is, an overwhelming majority of citizens see the political landscape as it is and refuse to analyse any other alternative, often viewing a vote for a third party to be a wasted vote because they don’t know where it will take them and if it’s worth the risk. For Malta, one might say that the political situation brought about by two main parties is also due to our size as an island, our tribalistic mentality of doing things (be it politics or football) and our reluctance to see what change could arise from something new and different. It goes without saying, that it is indeed easier said than done, because words would need would to leap off papers and speeches and transcribed into concrete efforts for an actual difference to be made in Maltese society.

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The party duopoly serves to restrict democratic pluralism, thus restricts one’s diversity in choice when it comes to elections, and one’s opinion when it comes to ideology. Malta is not the only the country in the world to be experiencing this situation, since a very similar, if not identical, situation can be found in the United States, where the Republican and Democratic Party have manifested their control over the political framework of the US. According to a recent Gallup poll, 6 out of every 10 American’s agree that there is the need for a third party in frontline American politics. This result also translates into over 61% of the American population agree that a third party is needed, while only 34% think that the Republican and Democratic parties are sufficient [1]. If one had to look at it from a generational point of view, another poll done by NBC News and GenForward resulted in almost 71% of millennials saying that that a third major party is needed in the US, while only 26% feel satisfied with the Republican and Democratic parties [2]. While taking the results of these opinion polls into consideration, one can apply this sentiment to Malta, where young people are losing their faith in Maltese politics due to just getting more of the same with either party in government, and want to have more to choose from. As most young people become broader with their outlook to politics, some still cling to the traditional composition of parties, more often than not sticking to their family alignments. Moving towards the older generations, some have lost all hope with either party, while others still flock to where their loyalties lie, and some have chosen to take matters into their own hands by spearheading their own political movements.

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As one can see, this segmented conundrum is what the Maltese political landscape consists of today and seems to be only too well-built to do away with. However, it would only be passive to accept all of this as the norm, as unfolding events show that this phenomenon is indeed being challenged. It is ultimately up the aspiring and active politicians from all ages to be motivated and dedicated enough to turn their words into actions, and be a breath of fresh air by being a means for a change to occur.

[1] https://news.gallup.com/poll/219953/perceived-need-third-major-party-remains-high.aspx 
[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/millennial-poll-strong-majority-want-third-political-party-n824526

Written by: Jacob Callus

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