Oft are the times when I read a piece of news, feel a sense of outrage, and then put those thoughts aside without properly distilling them. Everything happens in the moment. On occasion, however, I sit down and have an attempt at venturing outside of the moment, and draw parallels — in this case, with 16th century Florence.
“Although a prince may rise from a private station in two ways, neither of which can be entirely attributed to fortune or genius, yet it is manifest to me that I must not be silent on them, although one could be more copiously treated when I discuss republics. These methods are when, either by some wicked or nefarious ways, one ascends to the principality, or when by the favour of his fellow-citizens a private person becomes the prince of his country.”
That is how Niccolò Machiavelli opened the eighth chapter of his seminal work Il Principe (The Prince), a collection of principles of how to gain, and more importantly, maintain authority. Historical context is in order. During Machiavelli’s lifetime, Italy was divide into several independent city-states, such as Florence where Niccolò was born and raised. Different city-states had different forms of government and policy, and hence different intentions with regards to expansion and acquisition of new territory. This manifested itself in a series of wars, collectively known as the Italian Wars, such as that of 1551-1559 (after Machiavelli’s death in 1527) where the Republic of Siena was absorbed into the Republic of Florence. More so, Machiavelli experienced first hand the fall of the Medici, after some 60 years governing the Republic of Florence. The manner in which events transpired motivated Machiavelli to write and dedicate Il Principe as guiding principles to Lorenzo II de’ Medici, a short while after the Medici’s rule was restored.
Machiavelli deemed it necessary to instil a sense of fear amongst the subjects of one’s dominion, rather than affection, as he believed that this would keep the subjects loyal and in check. More so, it was deemed that if one is to instil fear upon an enemy, then it should be of such severity that the enemy does not even attempt at revenge. Deception of one’s subjects and the murder of rivals was necessary in Machiavelli’s politics. This is Machiavellism — the desire to obtain and maintain power through unscrupulous means, such as deceit. To Machiavelli, “the end justifies the means”.
The last two general elections have a particular parallelism with the aforementioned passage from Il Principe, which I shall now proceed to outline. On the 10th of December 2012, the then Nationalist MP Franco Debono voted against the Budget for 2013, triggering the process for the dissolution of the House and a general election on the 9th of March 2013. Come the 9th of March, and people spoke loud and clear: no more to a Nationalist government. Muscat’s posse was in power.
This is, by all means, an example of winning an election by the favour of fellow citizens. Credit due where credit is due. It is the actions before the election, and just after, of a select special few within the ranks of the Labour Party that is truly Machiavellian. The plans for a new power station in January of 2013, forming a key part of Labour’s manifesto. The setting up of companies and trusts in dodgy jurisdictions during July of the same year. Deceit.
The fallout from the Panama Papers during April of 2016 put pressure on Muscat’s government. The work of a certain Daphne seemed to have caused a panic. An enemy to the prince. Consolidation of power was necessary. On the 1st of May 2017, Muscat announced an early general election for the 3rd of June 2017. Knowing well that the Opposition was in poor shape, as suggested by the polls at the time, consolidation was guaranteed and indeed bestowed upon Muscat’s government by the citizens.
Yet, this time it would appear that the rise to power was achieved by some wicked or nefarious way. A few months later, on that blessed afternoon of the 16th of October, a mother was brutally murdered. As far as the public inquiry into her murder goes, a select few seemed to know as early as December 2016 about the 2017 election date.
And so the questions must be begged: Was this a case of the end justifying the means? Who is the actual prince?
(This article was originally posted on civilsocietymt.com)
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.
This author wished to remain anonymous.
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