Malta Environment Party Justification, Manifesto and Operational Framework
Concern and awareness about the environment has gained considerable momentum in recent years. In many countries it is frequently on the national agenda. Climate activists such as Greta Thunberg are helping to push the topic on the global agenda. With the exception of a few, everyone understands that we need to protect our environment and be active in its recovery as this directly affects the well-being and the quality of life of every organism.
Environmental topics must coexist with other subject matter such as happiness, comfort, convenience and financial wellbeing. Hypocrites and masochists (a very large number of the first, a small number of the second) may disagree but when the dust settles the majority want to be better off in terms of quality of life, life offerings, life opportunities and disposable income.
Maltese Political Scene
Malta is a country dominated by two political parties, the Malta Labour Party (MLP) and the Nationalist Party (PN). Suffice to say that post-independence, in 1964, the two parties totalled between them at least 90% of the first-count votes. If one were to exclude the 1966 election, all succeeding elections resulted in these two parties carrying at least 98% of the first count votes.
These two political parties exist primarily to be the winning party that governs. In order to achieve this goal they need to take all those measures that increases their likelihood of winning the next election cycle. Since an election is typically every 4 to 5 years, the parties only focus on the short and medium term. Implementing policies that, in the medium term, are not popular goes against their main motive of existence as this increases the risk of them winning the next general election. A case in point are budgets; the first two or three normally implement austere measures, the last two are rosier and tend to dish out benefits.
These political parties are ginormous institutions requiring massive amounts of funding to market their agenda and destroy the opposition’s. While they target their fund raising activities towards all strata of society, they receive substantial financial support from entities whose interests go against what is environmentally right and beneficial to society. When all of this is taken into account, it becomes evident that their raison d'etre cannot truly place the environment at the top of the agenda.
The current Maltese electoral system is based on a system called single transferable vote. In this system, voters give a ranking starting at 1 to the candidates contesting the election in their district. When tallying the votes, a quota is established to ensure that the required number of candidates (currently standing at 5) get elected. In order to reduce the impact of district gerrymandering, if one party secures 50%+1 first count votes, the parliamentary representation is adjusted to reflect the firstt count proportions.
Today, the state of the environment and quality of life in Malta is such that there is a need to take decisions that go head-on against the interest of certain lobbyists that are financing these parties. Also the environment requires planning that is long term and sustained.
Post-independence, a number of budding Maltese political parties attempted to compete against the big two but failed. The reasons for this are:
- Funding. Compared to the MLP and PN, these parties do not have the funds to compete and get their message through. The share of billboards each political party puts up around election time as well as the scale and quality of pre-election events demonstrates this.
- Distribution. The incumbents own their own traditional media outlets like TV, radio and newspapers and use them to build and sustain their base.
- Scope. Being small, the newcomers lack the human resources to define and refine broad, wide spectrum, political subject matter. They also lack the infrastructure to promote and defend a broad agenda;
- Social. It appears that the Maltese electorate are bound to the two major parties. Even in those instances in which a small percentage of voters swing between parties, the tendency is to go to the other side rather than vote for the smaller contestants. Factors mentioned above as well as family indoctrination could explain why first count votes are aimed solely at the MLP and PN. Another reason could be that the electorate feel that they are wasting their vote when they give their first choice to the smaller players.
- System. The district system works against new entrants. New entrants stand a better chance of having a candidate elected in parliament if first count votes were proportioned at the national rather than at the district level. Also the proportional adjustment of parliamentary candidates when the winner gets 50%+1 of the votes only applies to the parties who have elected candidates thereby excluding smaller parties in the process.
- Barriers to entry. The MLP and PN fight tooth and nail between them but then it comes to incumbents they have a national system that is “adjusted” towards big players who already have a presence in parliament.
The Environmental Party (EP)
The Environmental Party would be a single topic party focusing on the Environment (and the derived wellbeing of the population). This party is apolitical on other topics and will always attempt to align with the governing political party. If the ruling party turns down the EP, it will approach the other party.
The party commits to stay out of debates and discussions on topics that do not directly relate to the environment. Elected representatives (EleR) will vote with the party EP has aligned with on all topics except those related to the environment. On environmental issues the EP’s elected representatives will vote according to party direction. If the opportunity exists, the EP would seek the Environment ministry.
Financing and Funding
EP party financing would be though the paid up membership. Monthly, annual and multi-year membership models should be offered. Donations above a certain amount would only be accepted following executive approval (majority voting). Donations above a certain amount cannot be anonymous and need to be made public to members. The donor, donation amount and executive committee (ExeC) voting pattern as well minutes would be accessible by members.
Donations made directly to executive committee members (ExeC), potential candidates and elected representatives (EleR) would be prohibited unless these individuals are the vehicle through which the party accepts donations and the same checks and balances previously mentioned are applied to these sources of revenue.
Donations from companies and groups of any amount would need to be approval by EP’s executive (ExeC) with identical controls and record keeping mentioned above.
Party membership is open to individuals 12 years and older who are verifiable by having a valid Maltese ID card. Companies and organisations cannot be members.
Members have the following rights / obligations:
- Submit nomination for the post of an Operations Team (OpT) member;
- Submit nomination for the post of an election candidate obo the EP;
- Attend and participate in AGMs and any EP meetings.
- Put forward ideas and topics that may be endorsed by the EP;
- Participate in consultation discussions related to party policy direction;
- Participate in discussions related to environmental issues;
- Suggest party direction on issues that might not be clear cut. As the environment is a broad subject matter there could be borderline topics in which the direction the party takes might need to be decided through a member’s vote;
- Access content that is restricted only to members (for example EP’s executive decisions, donation decision database);
- Benefit from member-exclusive offerings the EP might offer.
Members are classified as follows:
· Operations Team (OpT)
Each member would be elected for a total of 4 years. Every year one fourth of this group would come up for re-election by members. Members can seek re-election. This approach ensures that:
o There is continuity and proper handover within the group;
o There is always an experienced group of individuals when elections are approaching;
o There is the encouragement of new ideas;
o There is an opportunity to re-evaluate every member of the committee between elections cycles (while an election cycle is typically 5 years, there could be a strategic reason for the governing party to head for an election during the preceding year);
o It gives every OpT member an opportunity to perform a periodic self-analysis and decide if s/he would like to remain in the role;
As the EP is a newly formed entity, the first OpT would benefit from a two year hiatus. The group would then need to divide itself (via randomised sorting) into the four groups for re-election purposes.
Elected representatives (EleR)
These are individuals who have contested an election and won a seat in parliament. This group will not come up for internal elections for the period they are in parliament. In the event that they are no longer in parliament they cease to be members of the executive committee (ExeC).
The justification for such a contract are:
- An elected member is not elected on his/her own merits but on the merits of the EP. Any potential candidate who does not agree with such principals can decide to present himself as an independent candidate.
- The electorate who gave the candidate 1st preference vote did so because they strongly believe in the environment and society’s wellbeing. When an elected representative is evicted from the party that person is no longer aligned with the party and therefore must not be able to represent the party and its causes;
- The electorate who gave the candidate 2nd preference onwards is aligned with a political party but feel that there is a need to have party that safeguards the environment and put their trust in the EP. When a candidate is no longer authorised to represent the EP, his/her votes must be returned back to the elector’s other choices.
· Members (Mem)
- Long Term Members (LTM) are those individuals who are paid up for a continuous period greater than 12 months. The purpose of LTM is to identify those long standing members who are considered to be loyal to the EP and what it stands for. Their continuous paid up membership implies that they are mature on the topic of the environment and are not supporting it simply because a current event has irked them or because they hold a grudge against an activity and are only interested in the environment in their vicinity. This also protects against an entity subscribing members to influence a cause. An extreme case would be one in which a parliament in which the EP has a controlling vote is hijacked by the opposition in order to try to bring down the government.
- Short Term Members (STM) are those who have been paid up members less than 1 year.
STM have one vote while LTM votes can range from 2 to 5 based on the following table:
The Executive Committee (ExeC)
The ExeC is made up of the OpT (Operations Team) and EleR (Elected Representatives).
The executive committee are protectors and enforcers of the party manifesto. Their role is to:
- · Ensure that no group of people can collectively unite to hijack the agenda of the party;
- · Front and set the direction of the party;
- · Manage the finances of the party and organise fund-raising activities that do not compromise the party principals;
- · Approve election candidates;
- · Manage EP’s membership;
- · Help members to understand strategies and concepts;
- · Perform PR activities and manage the EP’s PR infrastructure;
- · Ensure that the infrastructures used by the party (member database, online services, voting mechanisms) are secure, GDPR compliant and audited;
- · Propose disciplinary actions where necessary against members;
- · Manage the EP’s voting systems;
Most day to day decisions within the EP should be taken by the ExeC based on a simple majority vote.
Certain decisions such as approving individuals to contest elections, proposing disciplinary action against anyone within the EP, changing party statue or any big decision could be approved either via a 75% majority vote of the ExeC or on a majority vote of all paid up members of the EP.
If a decision requiring 75% of the ExeC fails to make the quota, any ExeC member may request that the decision is put to the vote of all members. For this to happen, a simple majority vote of the ExeC would be required.
The ExeC needs to balance speed and efficiency of taking decisions within ExeC with the democratic right of members to be involved. When possible decisions should involve all members. If a decision is to be posed to the entire EP base, proper notification and sufficient time must be provided to allow participants to understand what they are deciding for or against.
Systems and Operation
The EP needs to adopt a model that respects the environment. It would go against its principals if the party did not respect the environment in its operations. Use of energy efficient solutions and materials that are kind on the environment must be factored into all its decisions.
Efficient use of technology is critical to the success of the party. The party lacks the funds of the major parties to market its message using traditional media yet needs to reach and engage the greatest possible demographic. Luckily Malta is a connected society and it is becoming more comfortable consuming and interacting with online content. This evolution is helping the EP level the Maltese political playing field.
The EP needs to be an online party interacting with members using secure, easy to use and engaging solutions. Professionally managed social media should be the vehicle to interact with members and the electorate so as to get its message across. Professionally generated content using electronic instruments such as websites, podcasts and videos should be the EP’s newspaper, radio and TV.
Meetings (executive, members, public) must take place using online video and audio conferencing facilities rather than costly physical venues.
Voting and decision making systems must be online.
All systems need to be secure and should be periodically audited to ensure that their security is robust. Open source solutions should be preferred over proprietary closed ones. Foreign agents could have a vested interest to hack these systems for their end-goals.
All solutions must work with the devices in use today: desktops, laptops, tablet and smartphones. Any solution needs to work with all platforms. They need to cater for the needs of people with disabilities. As ecosystems evolve systems must be engineered to incorporate them.
Cost benefit analysis needs to take place when deciding whether to provide manual equivalents for online functions. If providing an alternative solution proves to be cost prohibitive, the EP needs to decide whether to drop it or charge those who require the manual equivalent.
Understanding its members, what are the environmental topics that are impacting the Maltese society, what works and what doesn’t, whether communication on a particular topic is effective or not and what is happening elsewhere are a few examples of what the EP needs to be efficient at. Data needs to be analysed so that the party can dynamically reach and adjust its campaigns to make them more effective.
The fact that, unlike traditional media, the internet makes it easy to source these inputs facilities the decision making process of the party. This comprehensive knowledge, when combined with other data sources, will help set the direction of the party and allow it to change and adjust quickly.
This is a kick-starting guide for what could be a political party focused on a topic that is very important to current and future generations of the Maltese society. It does not attempt to overhaul the entire Maltese electoral ecosystem but gives the Maltese electorate the possibility of stating with their vote that they care for the environment without feeling that they are going against existing political affiliations and beliefs.
The current level of technological maturity in Malta, gives the EP a strong chance of becoming the wining influencer who will help shape the future of Maltese Environment policy.