It is the vehicle for the greatest positive change in Maltese political history. Through my candidacy, I intend to fully realise the promises of third party politics, breaking a stalemate that has lasted for generations. And the stalemate in Maltese politics is stale, make no mistake. Across successive governments, I have heard the majority of people complaining about the same problems, and they never get addressed by any government. These issues include corruption, the environment and many more besides. People have wanted change for some time, and that momentum has already led to the election of two members of parliament from a third party. Nonetheless, we need to prove that the Partit Demokratiku represents that common ground, which people have so desperately waited for.
I intend that my contribution will be to help find that common ground. The Partit Demokratiku came together across strata of society, across age groups, across ideologies and from across the country. In third party politics, there is the promise of a healthier democracy and a healthier society. That is what the Democratic Party stands for.
If we can leave the mentality of football politics behind us, we can have change which is positive, and not just change for the sake of change. My vision for the Partit Demokratiku is that it acts as a bridge. A bridge of this sort can only work with underlying principles of unity. We need a new yardstick to measure success for our country. At the moment, both parties and people have different yardsticks for how to measure success. Therefore, we have conflict across age groups, over matters of religion, between parties and different backgrounds. I propose that the common ground be measured by quality of life. For example, it is no use having a strong economy if you are miserable, if you are mentally ill, if the environment is destroyed.
Beyond quality of life, it is about time we practiced politics of respect. Forget talk about negative or positive politics. Not wanting to engage in negative politics is a fancy way for the government to ask not to be criticized. Instead, let us talk about fair politics, and about respectful politics. If you have a friend making a mistake, you highlight that mistake for their sake as well as yours, and you help them get back on their feet. You do not try to destroy them. In this regard, I propose that the Partit Demokratiku puts itself at the service of this country by supporting positive policies and initiatives, and by trying to assist in rectifying mistakes when they are made. Maltese politics should not be a game of football with two teams fighting it out at any cost.
The Partit Demokratiku, being a small party, can bring about a healthier democracy by listening to the voices that cannot be heard by the big parties due to their size. When the Bicycling Advocacy Group invited candidates to travel by bicycle from Msida to MCAST, I was one of the few to respond. Why? Because all the major league candidates were out there on the big stage, trying to appeal to everybody. The Bicycling Advocacy Group showed us few who attended what a dangerous route it was to MCAST, and how a few simple solutions, opening up a few roads closed to cyclists, could help everyone.
These little voices complain to the big parties, but big party machinery means that by the time those complaints make it to the top, the leader hears nothing more than a whisper. It is the lobbyists and big money which do the talking. The Partit Demokratiku can fill in niches, where it is needed, and project those little voices onto the national stage. That is what it means to be of service to the country, and to practice respectful politics. Instead of competing over who can come up with the best economic plan, we must complement one another where possible. That is what it means to be a united country, and that is what it means for PD to hold the People’s Seats in parliament. With two MPs, we can propose legislation, and make little voices heard on the national stage. Where there are problems, we can help.
What about other groups which are ignored? We need to integrate immigrants, both for their sake and for the sake of our culture, heritage and traditions, which tie back to our quality of life. Last year, I met with the President of Malta to discuss creating an online Maltese course, for the sake of Maltese people such as myself, who grew up abroad. The Maltese across the Commonwealth are still our family, and they are still Maltese. Maltese identity is the result of a variety of influences from across history. Within our own country, we have subcultures between our very villages. Let us promote and celebrate those differences. As leader of the Partit Demokratiku I will promote the protection of our heritage and culture, as well as our environment.
This also means we must finally acknowledge and respect those Maltese who speak English as a first language. We must encourage residents and expatriates to speak both fluent Maltese and English, and promote the use of both for cultural and economic reasons amongst all Maltese and migrants. I therefore propose to lead the Partit Demokratiku with politics of respect, acting as a bridge between the parties and between the different segments of the Maltese population, always seeking common ground. A third party is necessary, and a fresh approach is needed.
Beyond breaking the two party system, even for the sake of the two parties functioning better and suffering less tension, we must also have constitutional change. If we introduce the necessary checks and balances into our constitution, then our institutions can become more reliable and exemplary.
A healthier democracy also means a population that understands how our political system works. As we debate giving the vote to 16 year olds, we must also think about how to ensure that those 16 year olds would be able to make informed decisions. Politics in Malta is a game of football, a tradition. People often support what their families support. To have a healthy democracy, it must be possible for as many citizens as possible to make a contribution to their country, and that requires an understanding of how the country functions. The involvement of young people in politics in a constructive way requires education not only of the youth, but also of older generations.
During the last general election I fought as a candidate of Forza Nazzjonali. Previously, as an environmentalist in civil society, I had come to the realisation that the best way to protect people and change the system is by engaging with it. One can protest, but that is not enough. To bring about real change, you have to be proactive. You have to propose solutions. You have to talk to the people who make the decisions, both inside of politics and out. When you talk to them, you have do so with respect and empathy. Consider that everybody thinks that their actions, on some level, are justified. That is why we must focus on quality of life and a healthy democracy, where respect and reciprocity are our common ground. Only that way can we strengthen our country without harming one another.
I am willing to set the example as a facilitator, and put the Partit Demokratiku at the service of Malta for the next five years, across all strata of society. We will listen, and I will listen, to educate ourselves just as we hope to propose a different way forward, and break the illusion that there are only two ways to do things, and that there are only two teams. In fact, there should only be one team – Malta.