I remember reading somewhere that 1970s Swedish pop sensation ABBA was about to make a ‘comeback’. Butâ¦ as a new Maltese political party? Challenge the next elections? Now this is something you don’t see every day …
And I have to admit: for my part, I can’t wait to attend their first live concertâ¦ I mean, âmass meetingâ. In fact, I can already imagine everything: the lights go down; silence descends on the crowd; and a voice rings out from the speakersâ¦ “Ladies and gentlemen, please give up for the last right-wing Christian political party to strike the Maltese ballotâ¦ the one and onlyâ¦ ABBA!” ”
The crowd goes wild; and leaves Ivan Grech Mintoff on stage, to the tune of “Dancing Queen” …
I mean, come on: it doesn’t get more glorious than that, does it? Plus: can you imagine what their campaign will look like? Not only do they have an instant hit anthem, in the form of: “Take A Chance On Me” (why, you weren’t expecting “The Winner Takes It All”, right?) – but they also benefit from a pre-written theme song for virtually any election matter.
Corruption? ‘Money, money, money’. Data protection? “Knowing me, knowing you (Aha!)”; Contraception? ‘Does your mother know?’â¦.
Right down to Ivan Grech Mintoff’s eventual (and inevitable) concession speech, which is also all ready to be quoted:
âEven though I never thought we could loseâ¦ there is no regrets. (And if I had to do the same thing again, I would, my friendâ¦ Etcetera.) â
Seriously, though: the whole thing is scripted so well that it could almost have been composed by Stig Andersen himself. Heck, I might even end up giving them my number one, just for their choice of nameâ¦.
Ah, but not everyone, it seems, is as excited as I am about Malta’s latest ‘Super Trooper’ in the neighborhood. Take the Election Commission, for example. Judging by his preemptive efforts to sabotage ABBA’s candidacy, before that happened … I can only assume their own reaction was something like:
âA new political party? Mom Mia, here we go again! My, my, how can we resist youâ¦? ”
And how, please, did the Election Commission try to “resist” Ivan Grech Mintoff’s new right-wing Christian political party – or, more precisely, to prevent it from registering in time for them. next elections?
Whyâ¦ by opposing the name, of course. And not, incidentally, for fear that the “real” ABBA might sue the “fake” for plagiarism (although, quite frankly, Yahweh could easily sue them both, for “taking his name in vain”) …
â¦ Or even because Maltese electoral law prohibits political parties from naming themselves after well-known pop or rock groups (which, let’s face it, I would understand more or less. Because if the idea is gaining ground among the Maltese Death Metal crowd … we would end up with political parties called ‘Abysmal Torment’, ‘Carnivorous Horde’, or even ‘Gruesome Funeral’ …)
And I hardly need to add that it had nothing to do with the ideological stance of the new party on a particular issue either. It would, after all, be a bit blatant for the Commission to oppose ABBA because of itsâ¦ say, extreme views on abortionâ¦ when those same views are shared by all other mainstream parties, including the Labor and PN.
Nor could the Commission have realistically been able to oppose Ivan Grech Mintoff’s anti-immigration rhetoricâ¦ not after repeatedly endorsing Norman Lowell’s Imperium Europa candidacy, for every EP election. since 2005â¦
No, the reason must be another; and the official given by the Election Commission itself was that the word ‘ABBA’ is … wait for it … “too short to be abbreviated”. (And, as George Clooney reminded us so often in all those TV commercials: âNo Abbreviation, No Partyâ¦â)
Hmmm. Now: not to be mean, or whatever … but if the Election Commission is so stubbornly obstinate in depriving people of some of their most basic human rights – because that is ultimately what its actions would have led to if they had succeeded. – the least he can do is find a more credible pretext.
“Too short to be abbreviated”, indeed. Whyâ¦ it’s too stupid to even print. On the one hand, because it only means that the word doesn’t really NEED to be abbreviated (Duh!); and for anotherâ¦ because, at four characters, ‘ABBA’ is actually shorter than some of the other abbreviations already approved by the same Commission.
Like ‘AD / PD’, for example (and oh look: another political party named after a rock band: this time a dyslexic version of the export of the most famous Rhythm ‘N’ Blues from Australiaâ¦)
All of this leaves me with a furtive little suspicion that the Election Commission may have had other motives for trying (ahem) to “abort” ABBA, at some point before he had a chance to be born.
And they seem to have a lot in common with that time (at bootcamp, etc.), when the same Election Commission prevented Alternattiva Demokratika from using the color green to signify their party on the ballot … while allowing, of course, the Labor Party. and PN to use red and blue, respectively.
Or when he chose not to give any public clarification on Maltese voting procedures, when – before the 2013 election – Labor and the PN were telling the electorate that ‘you cannot vote without distinction of party’ ( which is, in fact, what our whole electoral system was originally designed for in the first place …)
Or every other time, every other bootcamp, when its actions and decisions always seemed to be rooted in the central concept that Malta – by some sort of divine decree – is, was, and always will be, a two-party state …
Well, fair enough: in most – if not all – of these cases, the Commission could still argue that its hands were tied by the precise wording of Maltese Election Law … which, in turn, might explain some of the other injustices so small parties so often complain in this country.
In particular, the fact that a political party must represent at least 16.6% of a constituency of the Maltese electorate – ie more than 4000 votes – to obtain a seat in Parliament; and when no small party in Malta (with the worrying exception of Imperium Europa, at European level) has managed to exceed even the 3% mark at national level …
At the same time, however, this only reinforces the fact that the entire Maltese political landscape is grotesquely skewed in favor of both established parties, to the detriment of all the others … and that, in itself, only cements the perception that the Electoral Commission – being directly appointed by the two parties themselves – is only a small cog in the machinery of a much larger and more permanent injustice.
I can think of no better way to put it, than as a case where the Election Commission somehow sees its own role as a “defender of the political status quo”; and that, on this basis alone, he almost feels obliged to make the emergence of new parties as difficult as possible …
But in the case of ABBA, in particularâ¦ it may have taken this âself-proclaimed missionâ a little too far.
Leaving aside the small problem that – if successful – this attempt to bar a political party from running for office would almost certainly have been deemed “illegal” and “undemocratic” (not to mention a violation of human rights). ‘man) by any court in the democratic world. …
â¦ But that would also have deprived a minority of their rights – no matter how small; and no matter how far I am from my own worldview or opinions – which clearly no longer identify with either of the two dominant parties (if, at least, only on matters of religion).
And what is it, if not another way of âcoercingâ people either to vote for a party they don’t really identify withâ¦ or not to vote at all?
And anyway: since when has it been part of the mandate of the Electoral Commission to set limits on the electoral options available to voters in this country? (And even then, limits that go well beyond what is already established by law: that is, against parties that âpromote hatred or violenceâ?)
Most importantly, it only adds another reason – in addition to all the others I have listed above – why electoral reform has become so urgent in this country. Oh wait, that reminds me …
… what happened to that parliamentary debate that we were supposed to have on this same topic: you know, the one that got stuck recently, because both parties came up with a system that would have allowed small parties to get elected more easily, yes … but then, impossible to ever be part of a government coalition?
That defeats the whole purpose of multistakeholder representation, does it not? (Leaving aside the fact that the lack of votes should be compensated by another “constitutional complement mechanism” …)
But anyway: I guess there’s a reason why we should actually be grateful to the Election Commission, for its latest attempt to stifle true democratic representation in this country. It reminded us once again how unfair and undemocratic our electoral system is …
â¦ And with another election in just a few weeks: after all, maybe we needed to call it back.
So all together now, guys: âThanks for the music! The songs you sing … “