The election may have been a distraction but it also was an opportunity. In the event, it was a lost opportunity. Congratulations are due to Labour for an overwhelming victory but this was not just a sporting event, nor does it have any real significance for the exercise of power in Malta.
It was an election which Joseph Muscat could not afford to lose and he has won it resoundingly, not least on account of the increased water and electricity tariffs and more because of the way the PN government mishandled the whole issue from start to finish. However we have been made to forget that the whole process is intended to produce our representation in the EP. Have we bagged the best people for the job? Have we spread our influence as far as we possibly can?
The ability to secure a tweaking of some regulation-in-the-making can mean life or death for a particular line of business in Malta. Being able to lobby for a delay in the coming into force of a regulation or for the inclusion of a wider field of action for another may be the be all and end all for a whole sector in Malta.
So far we have had just five years of this. It will never end. More than that, we can expect the EU to expand its hold over us: for the EP to have a say over more and more aspects of our lives. Whether we welcome this process or dread it is a grand irrelevance – this is the way the cookie has crumbled. We just have to deal with it, to get our act together and hone our skills in using the system to our best advantage or to our least disadvantage. Have done so in 2009?
The political parties have taken over the process for the purposes of an almost meaningless arm wrestle between them. There was very little European about this election. While competence did count for something with voters, the partisan and populist element did not allow competence to dominate the choice completely.
Quite apart from the qualities of the candidates elected, lies the matter of influence. We had our minds at rest from the outset that Malta would be represented in the PPE and the PES. Whether there are two, three or four of these in any of these groups does not make a very great difference. Group discipline is such that two people making the case for Malta as the group decides its stand will not cut much more ice than one competently presenting our case.
Because the Maltese presence lies on both sides of the Left-Right it generally cancels itself out. On those matters which hang in the balance until one of the smaller political groupings is roped in Malta and in particular the Maltese business community has no influence, no contacts and no lobbyists: nobody with the Greens, nobody with the Liberals. We need competent people there also. For the next five years we have nobody.