Saturday, March 8, 2008

election day

Today is election day in Malta. They should know the results around noon tomorrow (Sun).

By American standards, they don't make voting easy, and yet they get very high turn out. In the US we debate allowing people to register to vote on the day of elections by walking into the polling place, we discuss on-line voting. In Malta you must present yourself with ID in Valletta at a particular office. The office is closed, like almost everything else in the early afternoon. So, you'd have to take time off from work to get your voting documents. Then you have to show up at one of the many polling places to deposit that ballot (I'm unclear whether the document you get in Valletta is the ballot or a chit of some kind that gets you the ballot today). I went walking the dog this morning around 8 am and people were streaming in and out of the local elementary school where the polling place is. Like in the US it was fairly quiet and no campaigning is allowed within a block or so of the voting place. It was also social, perhaps a bit more so than in the US (though it is also social there).

NOW....everyone told me it would be crazy time once the results are announced. Stores are closed today, Sun and Monday, for example. I was told to be sure to do my grocery shopping for the next few days today. Why? Because those who lose go mope around, while those who win launch one carcade after another. Moreover, I've been told, the partisans of the winning party make it a point to rub the opposition's nose in their defeat by parading around towns known to be heavily populated with voters of the losing parties (effectively "party" because there are two strong ones and two minor ones who don't typically win seats).

In the days that have run up to this event, I've see more mud slung that would ever happen in the US (yes, really...but at least it is by the candidates and the parties rather than political action committees who launch independent ads against their opponents per our election laws). But there are a number of news outlets and they all have political persuasions, so if you read a number of them you get different views of the mud. If I read Maltese, I'd have a better grip on it all.

I've also seen how passionate the Maltese are about the election and their favorite party. I doubt many Maltese would ever dream of splitting tickets (though it's quite possible with their single-transferable vote system). Americans do it fairly often. I seem to have friends who are adherents of three of the four parties, namely I know ones who support Nationalist, Labour, and Alternattiva Demokratika. Each has told me earnestly why their party is A) ruling well or B) could rule well. Just yesterday, a woman who is co-owner one of the local shops where I pick up groceries explained how much the Nationalist Party (the one currently in power) had done for the country. [Note: I've learned that St. Paul's Bay tends to vote for this party; if I were in Paola the tendency would be for Labour.] She told me how she wrote the Prime Minister and got a response. I've had Labourites explain how their party could address current problems in Malta and outline the achievements of the party in the past. It's interesting to me to see so many Maltese citizens so able to discuss their party and what it stands for. Not too many Americans could go into this kind of detail, but then our parties are not particularly strong.

I wish Malta well, however its citizens decide this election, the 10th election since they achieved independence from Britain in the 1960's. For sure they are not afraid to express their opinions!

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