Remarks made by Labour MP Oliver Scicluna who expressed his disgust on the rife clientelism in the Maltese political system opened a can of worms. Barely a year into his foray in politics he did not mince his words to express his experience so far.

“So many individuals come up to me and tell me ‘if you sort me out, I’ll keep you in mind. It’s a phrase that makes me feel uneasy, because I believe that people should get what is theirs by right, if they are entitled to it,” he said, adding that the phrase also had come with undertones of a voting threat.

Scicluna added that he felt offended and hurt by such requests.

“I’m going public because I feel offended when somebody comes up to me asking for help, with the idea that they can cash in their vote for a favour…. I want the people who vote for me to do so from their heart, because they believe I can do something good, not exchange a vote for a favour,” he said.  

Ironically, these remarks were made by an MP hailing from a party which in 2013 was elected to government on the pledge of restoring meritocracy.  If Scicluna harbours any hopes of contesting the next general election, for he has raised serious questions on his political future, his Facebook outburst did not earn him any brownie points with the Labour hardcore. It is a well known fact that in Malta constituents curry favour with their MPs to get something back. Some may even do it on multiple fronts, as if their vote was up for grabs in an auction. This culture is endemic of the Maltese political scenario. Anybody, claiming to be oblivious to all this must have been living on Mars.  In this context, Scicluna’s comments may be considered quite naïve as he was surely fully aware of all this prior to accepting the parliamentary seat.

Nevertheless, credit is due as he was bold enough to denounce the system. His stance is even more significant given that he owes his seat entirely to his party leader and Prime Minister Robert Abela, as it was the latter’s decision to co-opt him rather than follow the democratic will of the electorate by filling the seat which had been vacated by Edward Scicluna through a casual election.

Meanwhile, the Labour MP in the eye of his self-concocted storm is now at a crossroad. He may either stay put and bow out of the scene quietly, or else he may choose to forge ahead.  Given that he could have already burnt his bridges for re-election he may choose to go down fighting, possibly winning the votes of those who are fed-up with the clientelistic approach of Maltese politics. In that case, he has fertile ground to mount a serious campaign by denouncing his colleagues who have been putting hundreds on the State payroll in unproductive jobs, either directly or through the notorious outsourcing system. There are also countless examples of candidates and MPs distributing all sort of stuff ranging from oranges, sweets, and according to some rumours even white goods!

This could be a golden if not once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an MP to stand up to the establishment and convey a strong message on behalf of all those who truly believe in meritocracy, integrity and the fight against corruption.  The Labour MP has the credentials to champion the cause of thousands of silent voters who demand a truly meritocratic society with no strings attached.  Oliver, can we have some more, before this legislature runs out?