Speaking as someone who was ‘wara l-perspex’ during a general election, MEP elections, referenda and various local council elections, I am aware of the tension and frustration one feels during the sorting and counting and most of all awaiting for the results, breaks and all; I can sympathise with what party agents, journalist and Malta and Gozo at large went through during the past days and nights.
Once the process is understood one arrives to the conclusion that although the Maltese electoral system is tedious it gives a very proportionate and fair result. Nonetheless there is need to re-think the way votes are physically counted.
Firstly, we must re-think the idea of having one central counting hall where every vote is counted in the same place – it is time that we consider having various district based counting halls, which will surely ease the process when it comes to general and local elections. This is possible with today’s technology. With regards to the MEP elections where Malta and Gozo are one district then it may be slightly more complicated, yet surely not impossible. Secondly, one may also consider the scanning of votes using optic character readers. When discussing the issue with some IT guys it sounded quite plausible and it is already used by banks when scanning cheques.
Admittedly I was one of those who was following every count and every piece of ‘news’ and update that was coming out of Naxxar since this time round I was not physically present there. As you surely concur one could notice the frustration of people both inside and outside expressed through their body language, the various Facebook comments and statuses.
What I couldn’t understand and sympathise with was the institutionalisation of the mockery that was taking place during the long hours of waiting between one count and the other. These, I can assure you, are very long hours of waiting. Sometimes because the system requires so, other times because of mistakes and erroneous calculations by people who, I can testify on oath to that, are not strictly speaking endowed with the knowledge of the process. Ah the joys of waiting, sleeping on chairs and drinking coffee, discussing what went wrong and what should be done better!
It is OK to ease the tension and play jokes; I used to do it. BUT it is absolutely not on that people are encouraged to make a fool of themselves, being led into thinking that they are being appreciated when in fact they are simply being ridiculed.
What is even worst is that this is institutionalised by the media. Today we live in a society where most of us consume what has been already been digested by the media, without making the effort of analysing the soup being dished.
I think you know exactly what I am referring to. Videos and photos where being uploaded constantly by various people present there of one particular candidate’s speeches, predictions and poems. It was like seeing someone who, after drinking a crate of beer during the festa, is surrounded by everyone to make fun of him asking him to do funny things, to say stupid things etc. This person would obviously play along and would seem to love all that attention. Although it seems as something innocent and not ill-intentioned, also taking in consideration the fact that the person is ‘willing’ doing so, I find it simply not on. The gravity increases when it is encouraged and exploited on a national level. Shouldn’t we know better?
The problem I see with all this is the exploitation by the media, making it appear as if there’s nothing wrong, featuring it as flash news directly from the counting hall (when in fact it is none other than rendering someone a scapegoat). Tension and frustration are not excuses. Truth be told, journalists might have felt the need to fill in the gaps of silence that emerged from Naxxar, finding themselves in a situation where they were expected to constantly inform their readers, thirsty for news, about who was to be awarded the sixth seat, at times when in fact there was no news to give. Still it gave no one the right to mock and exploit publicly someone. A higher moral standard should on the other hand be encouraged. Ultimately it may boil down to one mantra I repeat to myself: If you having nothing to say, say nothing at all.