Using his Australia trip to announce his intention to allow Maltese living abroad to vote in national elections is not a coincidence. With Joseph Muscat nothing is.
His remark, on an ethnic radio show in Maltese for Maltese-Australian listeners, was addressed to a very specific audience: Maltese-Australians. The context of his remark was a follow-up on an earlier question about second and third generation Maltese-Australians acquiring Maltese citizenship to travel freely around Europe.
Looks like Joseph Muscat is exacting his price for the privilege and at least judging from anecdotal evidence of the sort of preference the Labour Party enjoys over any other party among people who left here half a century ago and by extension – if they can be bothered – their descendants is an almost sure fire way of ensuring perpetuity.
The issue about non-Malta resident citizens voting is not new. EU membership has broadened the footprint of Maltese culture in several cities of Europe. Migration is not new for Maltese people of course. Though this new contemporary phase is happening in the age of FaceTime and Skype, allowing people to go to work in Brussels in the morning and return, at least virtually and culturally, back to Malta every evening in their apartment in the same town.
These people understandably insist they are allowed to continue to participate in political life in Malta and by extension an eligibility to vote.
It will not be easy to say yes to vote to migrants in Luxembourg, Berlin and London and no to migrants in Sydney and Melbourne.
Every country draws its own lines, and the line in our law which requires residence in Malta is no doubt excessively stringent. Usually countries impose a time limit after the migrant’s departure — 25 years say. In some cases the line is drawn generationally allowing citizenship rights to be inherited but excluding voting rights.
But Joseph Muscat will not want the line to stop at migrants benefiting from EU membership and sensible PN policies. He’ll want to recruit the old grudges of a good chunk of Maltese–Australians whose political consciousness froze with Mintoff and Gonzi … Mikiel Gonzi I mean. I don’t want to present a cartoon image of a community frozen in time. Obviously not all Maltese-Australians think alike as indeed Maltese-Londoners or Maltese-Luxembourgers don’t think alike.
But the numbers are indicative of a manifest numerical advantage for Labour support down-under.
Joseph Muscat may find this the right opportunity to have it his way and give his Labour Party a future-proof security founded entirely in the otherwise forgotten past.