Malta certainly has a thing for tribalism doesn’t it? From what football team they support, to what parish they pray at, the Maltese love to find every excuse in the world to huddle up together and hurl expletives at ‘the other side’. Then there’s politics.
I, like most of our species, have grown extremely sceptical of politics of late. In many respects it looks like we’ve hit rock bottom. That is, until something even more ridiculous happens and it turns out this rabbit hole we inhabit only goes deeper. Of course, Maltese politics has always been a special cat in that bag. Somehow, we always manage to push the envelope in terms of ridiculousness up to 11.
In a way it makes sense that the Maltese adore politics so much, after all, it’s entertainment, something I classify as such because I’m of the “it’s better to laugh rather than cry” school of thought. The side effect of this is that it’s rather difficult for those outside the ultra-partisan bracket to take it seriously. Yet, there remains one thing that brings out my inner sceptic more than Maltese politics, and that is Maltese student politics. To the uninitiated, wondering what it is with all this clutter and signage crowding up the areas in and around the canteen and gateway building, not to mention all the obnoxious music blasted all over quad that leaves your head throbbing, welcome to the KSU elections.
In the interest of transparency, I must first disclose that I’ve been a Pulse/SDM hater since about the second I became aware of these two organisations - if my tone hasn’t already tipped you off. Among my most vivid memories from my brief time at Higher Secondary and MCAST was the sheer relief that these organizations had no presence at either school at the time.
Continuing on, whilst everyone likes to equate these two organisations with the national parties (against the desperate denials by each side’s exponents), there are a couple differences between them. Primarily, the lack of turnout at the university elections compared to the sky-high rates of its national counterparts. Can you even blame us for our apathy? Some of us already had to suffer these organizations at Junior College, having to deal with their street apparatchiks (who by some unimaginable coincidence go on to become canvassers for the national parties). As well as their overzealous marketing campaigns that advertise party after party (which by the way, is a big part of what keeps their whole gravy train funded) in order to lure those kids in with the promise of community and kinship (credit due, something I don’t doubt these organisations provide). Just watching from the sidelines was enough to consume every last drop of my patience.
When coming to UOM, I wondered whether the beating hearts of these two organizations would more productive than their counterparts. If the grilling of the previous KSU admin is anything to go by, yes, marginally so, and by marginally I mean an app that after 3 years seems to be nowhere in sight, setting up elaborately expensive events and activities around election times and Freshers’ week (conveniently the best times to rope people into your organizations) and, to their credit, a fair dose of student activism. Also, just because all this took place under the perennial SDM administration, doesn’t leave me in doubt that any of this would change if Pulse ran the show.
My original intention with this piece was to pull a Hunter S. Thompson (minus the fistfuls of psychotropics), following the election trail, giving my 2 cents and endorsements, putting out insights on either parties manifestos and the outcomes of either parties victory. However, after almost suffering a brain aneurysm from some of the campaign events and debates, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t handle the fakeness, the sanitized talking points and the lack of discernable difference between these two parties. Truly these are Maltese politicians in training.
This election is pointless. These student organisations have drastically exceeded the scope of their existence and there is no difference between these two “parties” except that each seems slightly more comfortable with a particular national party over the other. Moreover, both these organisations perpetuate the tribalistic aspect of this island’s political dialogue, reinforcing the “us versus them” narrative that is already instilled in us from childhood by our (most likely) partisan parents, blindly sticking to ‘our’ faction. This ensures that this is not a battle of ideas, but a battle of who shouts the loudest, looks the prettiest and raises the most money, all coalescing in order to maintain a political system that (at this rate) will plague these islands eternally.
The analogous nature of student politics to its national counterpart doesn’t bode well and, with that in mind, I can’t in good conscience tell you to vote in this election. It would be nice if that weren’t the case, but these are the cards we’ve been dealt.