Every Maltese election is defined, at least in part, by fear. Fear that the wrong party will gain a majority, and with that majority and increased power will come repression and punishment, for daring to resist and for daring to be different. In this climate of fear, we often end up voting not for the politics that we believe in, but for what we consider to be a necessary evil. In doing so, we keep the quality of our politics stuck below a certain level, dooming ourselves to mediocrity and never really discovering our true potential.

How can we expect a strong PN Opposition, when it keeps making moral compromises which undermine its entire raison d’etre? The answer in these difficult times seems to be elusive, because we are faced with a Nationalist Party that can hardly put up a real fight. True believers in good governance and democracy hardly find themselves inspired in such a climate, yet we fight on, because if we do not, there are not many left who will. It is painful to see members of the Opposition at civil society gatherings on the 16th of every month, listening to speeches condemning a weak Opposition, and then, what happens?

I therefore think it is about time that we had the courage of our convictions and believe that the best signal we can send to the Nationalist and Labour Parties alike to clean up their acts, is to actually vote for the politics we believe in, and for the politics which does not compromise on its morals. I am of course talking about the independent and third party candidates who have proven their mettle, but whose only ‘crime’ is that it appears to some that voting for them would be a wasted vote.

In Malta’s system of the Single Transferable Vote, however, there is no such thing as a wasted vote, especially in a European or local council election. If we want to keep these third parties and independents in the game, saying the things that we believe and holding the two major parties to account, then we have to support them. How can we expect to have a moral and credible Opposition, when we do not reward those who stand up to be counted?

If we give our initial set of preference votes to third party candidates or independents, and continue on to candidates from larger parties, then it is likely that we end up with a win-win situation. Either we get a fresh third party or independent candidate elected, who does not have to compromise to any businessmen or lobbies, and who has no baggage. Or else, that candidate gets a good result despite being eliminated, feels confident to keep campaigning for the right thing, and then a candidate from a major party inherits the vote regardless. The only difference in this scenario, assuming the third party candidate gets eliminated, is that the third party candidate will be incentivized to keep fighting for a righteous cause after the election.

If we play it safe forever, we are giving a free pass to the two major parties to keep making horrible moral compromises, because they will never learn that people reward good behaviour. So this time round, let us use the Single Transferable Vote to its maximum effect.