To Vote or Not to Vote - Lesser of Two Evils?
Once again it's that time when every Maltese person shifts their attention to the elections and shifts gear to political mode. They watch closely what is happening on all the media and enjoy a gladiatorial fight between two large political parties, with the smaller ones being trampled on as if they were the sand of the arena - because let's face it; the system is completely rigged against them after the electoral system in Malta was blatantly rigged in that way by a consensus of the two major parties, back when Kool and the Gang released 'Celebration'. And after all that deep thought and consideration, the average Maltese citizen will go on to vote... well... probably as their parents and their grandparents before them voted.
Apart from the minority of floating voters who actually do shift their votes between the two major parties according to what they believe is the best choice, there is a segment of the population, that might be on the rise, who will choose to ignore the elections altogether and who will not turn up at the voting booth.
They simply feel let down by the entire system, to the point that as per the gladiatorial analogy above, they refuse to be part of that circus, the same way I refuse to watch a Corrida when I visit Spain, because I find it to be a cruel activity that should be relegated to the relics of Spanish history, like their armada.
It does not mean that those of us who vote are not let down by the system either. This will be I think, my 6th election and I have always voted and I have changed voting and cross-voted in various occasions. It does not mean that I am happy with the fact that it is so difficult for Malta to elect other parties and form coalition governments. This idea that coalition governments are an undesired outcome, was something which engrained in us by our social studies teachers since primary school years in the 90's. (Because that's as far as I can remember with regards to social studies lessons). As a matter of fact, coalition governments are very much a norm in all other European countries. So why not Malta? So given the fact that we are in a bipartisan system of having to choose between red or blue, the floating voters are always caught between a rock and a hard place: a classical dilemma of having to choose the lesser evil.
I might sound preachy but for the benefit of young voters who might stumble onto this blog, here's how I do it:
1) I identify and write a list of things that matter to me and why. That is exactly what I did in my previous blog entry here.
2) Obviously I follow what everyone is saying, be informed, be careful of echo chambers, and known and learn how to recognise media spins on biased media. The Truth is out there as the X-Files series used to say (look it up if you are too young to remember), you just have to dig for it.
3) I Look at the ethos and track record of the party and its affiliations and influences. If liberal and progressive changes are what you value most - the dilemma is easier to resolve as most candidates and the parties are either liberal inclined or conservative. Just avoid the latter. Now I know that different parties have different ethos and track records. But I also know that in each party there are people of good will and aptitude, which brings me to no. 4.
4) We are a candidate-based electoral system. So you can choose the ones you like best and whose ideas match most to your list in number 1. You can choose to vote only for them and not fill the rest of the candidates in the same party. You can even choose to vote across different parties.
However those who vote, I repeat, do not necessarily do so because they are happy with the current status quo - but what choice do they have? Recently I came across this quote below which I found fascinating and it explains why choosing the lesser of two evils, is something to make us extremely vigilant of.
Ther reason why we know that no matter what we choose there is something wrong with our choice, is because we know the system is broken. We need to fix that system and politicians need to know and listen to those who believe that on the 26th of March 2022, they are going to choose the lesser of 2 evils, and not the ones who are righteous.
What you do is up to you. But this brings me to those people who choose not to vote. Many will bring the argument that one has a 'duty' to vote - our ancestors died for that privilege and right to be able to choose one's own representatives in parliament. Therefore, they reason, not exercising that right is dishonouring them and it's basically some form of cowardice or shirking of responsibility.
People who do not vote have another dilemma presented to them which differs from those who actually vote, which is "Should I participate in what I consider to be a freaky circus? If I do it's undesirable and if I don't, I'm allowing others, who might be less apt than I am, to decide who sits in parliament."
When I studied ethics and the theory of rights, we understood rights as something people own, and as something that people own they can choose not to use it and they can even go a step further and give it away. A right, is a right, precisely because one can waive it. Therefore choosing not to exercise the right to vote is a very legitimate choice, as long as one can live with the fact that others will choose for them regardlessly.
However in ethics, not choosing is a choice in itself. I believe that those who do not vote are making a statement in itself and to quote Raphael Vassallo (since he enjoyed quoting me in one of his recent articles I thought of paying him back in kind), where around ten years ago he wrote: "A significant drop in voter turn-out might achieve much more in the way of political reform for the country, than the efforts of any one political party to achieve change from within Parliament."
It will be truly a failure of our political system and parties, if voter turn out starts dropping and I am starting to feel that it needs to happen, it needs to fail, so that true and valid political reforms are done for everyone's benefit. And by everyone I don't mean the parties, but all Maltese citizens, voters and non voters. If parties are concerned about the people who choose not to vote - who think that our political system is a complete circus - they need to listen to these people and listen to them well. They need to listen to those who post a photo of their voting document on facebook and write "adding it to the collection". If not voting is also a choice, we need to understand where and why that choice is being made. That is what healthy citizenship does. There is another quote about the lesser of two evils that might apply to these people:
I personally know I will vote - unfortunately my favourite candidate isn't even on my electoral district. But because I made that choice I have my work cut out for me as it always is. Classical dilemmas are no easy task.
But I will not pressure on anyone to vote at all and I repudiate this as much as I repudiate pressuring anyone to vote as one does, because I know where these people are coming from. What I want, is for politicians to listen to us - us who vote or not vote - and to listen to us beyond the pettiness of complaints and bread and butter issues.
I won't tell you the ever-so-cliche catchphrase "Don't forget to vote" therefore - I prefer to tell you the phrase we close Christmas pantomimes with, so I will tell you "Be nice to each other"