Malta says yes… twice!

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This was an historical and hectic year for Malta. In the space of 5 weeks Malta held a referendum on EU accession, local elections and national elections. Malta is heavily polarised and divided because of two big political parties; the Christian Democrat Nationalist Party and the Malta Labour Party. Unfortunately these two parties have managed to hijack the political system and they’ve made it almost impossible for a third party to break their duopoly. Hence the country lives in endless political tension and this year was no exception.

The referendum on EU accession was held on the 8th of March together with the local elections. The YES camp was made up of Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party, the Nationalist Party and the majority of Maltese civil society. On the other hand the NO camp was lead by the supposedly socialist Malta Labour Party and a few right-wing anti-EU organisations linked to xenophobe and ultra-rightist parties like the UK Independence Party.

At the end of an action-packed campaign the YES vote prevailed over the NO vote obtaining 53.6% of votes cast. The official turnout was a high one at 91%. As the first projections were made public the country blew a sigh of relief and thought that all the tension and uncertainty was over.

However the Malta Labour Party leader, who never stops surprising the country, had one last card up his sleeve. The Labour leader declared that the NO camp had won the referendum since the 53.6% majority does not add up to the majority of all eligible voters. At this bizarre declaration the NO camp supporters where out in the streets celebrating a bogus victory alongside the jubilant YES camp supporters who were rightfully enjoying the YES victory. All this may sound peculiar but I can assure you this is all true. Never a dull moment for us here in Malta.

All this led to crucial general elections which were nothing but another referendum. People were dead scared of another bizarre interpretation of the result by the loony Labour Party and over 96% of eligible voters cast their vote. Once again the people voted in favour of EU accession and the Nationalist Party was returned once again to power even though the country desperately needs a breath of fresh air. As a result of this the Labour Party stayed in opposition and the Malta Green Party once again was not elected to parliament. Besides this the YES vote was reconfirmed and Malta will finally join the EU next May.

The result obtained by the Green Party may seem disappointing but the future looks bright. The Green Party obtained 6% of votes in the local elections and at last the two-party system is showing some cracks. The need of a third party, an alternative to the bipolar partisan political scene is gaining wide consensus. The Greens are now looking forward to new challenges such as the European Parliament elections and local elections which will be held in 2004.
After months of tension and divide the country will have a good rest and is now back to normality. Strangely enough this month staunch Nationalists and Labourites who have been divided for months will finally get together and forget their differences during the Eurovision Song Contest. Sad but true.

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