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MALTATODAY 9 June 2019

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14 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 9 JUNE 2019 NEWS DAVID HUDSON THE Nationalist Party MP Claudio Grech has said both major parties must come up with an adequate response to the toxic agenda that fuelled the far-right's showing in the 2019 European elections. Grech, whose constituency includes Hamrun, one of the few localities contested unsuc- cessful by the nativist Patriots, appeared to break ranks with his own party's discourse dur- ing the 2019 European elec- tions on foreign workers. "The problem is two-fold: the 'spectre of populism' is contributing to far-right senti- ments… on the one hand, you find many who complain about the presence of foreigners but then, the same people would be exploiting them for business interests, manifestly reflecting the erosion of what social jus- tice means in a modern econ- omy." Malta emerged from a Euro- pean election in which Nazi apologist Norman Lowell tri- umphed in the third party bat- tle with over 8,200 first-count votes, and which fielded one of the great- est ever number of candidates, party and inde- pendents, with far-right senti- ments. Lowell eas- ily seduced the far-right vote away from the ultra- nationalist Patriots party, who floun- dered miserably. But his first count proportion of 3.2% of the national vote, tied with the Patri- ots' 0.3% and the ultra-conservative Alleanza Bidla, eas- ily gives the radical right-wing just over 50% of the third party vote, a fact that should shock parties that promote values of decency and liberalism. Indeed the far-right weighed heavily on an election during which Malta was shocked by the cold-blooded murder of Ivorian national Lassane Cisse Souleymane, and the attempted murder of two other migrant workers, by two young Armed Forces soldiers in a senseless drive-by shoot- ing in Hal Far. The murder and arrests prompted Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to make an impassioned plea to his voters during an election rally not to downplay the dan- ger of the far-right, in particu- lar the eccentricity of Norman Lowell. For too long now, Lowell has been handled with kid gloves by unprepared and unques- tioning journalists and politi- cians: allowed to expound his admiration of Adolf Hitler on cable TV, glorifying eugenics and the elimination of "horribly deformed" humans, and even laughing off Auschwitz as the "Disneyland of Poland" despite the mere trivialisation of the Holocaust being a criminal offence in Malta. "I think we need to under- stand why this is happening, we need to be asking ques- tions," says Ma- ria Pisani, a former IOM head of office in Malta who now lectures at the Uni- versity of Malta. "What's the ap- peal? Is it ideologi- cal? A protest vote reflecting disil- lusionment with mainstream parties? Disengagement from the politi- cal process and having a laugh? "Mainstream parties pander- ing to the far-right and in the process normalising (and fuel- ling) extreme ideologies? Loss of privilege, fear and a sense of rootlessness or growing in- equalities and economic inse- curity? All/none of the above and more?" No easy answer to the ques- tion, as Pisani concedes in try- ing to make sense of the thou- sands of voters who probably ditched party loyalty in the European elections to prop up Lowell – just days after the ar- rest of the Souleymane mur- der suspects. "An openness to dialogue needs to be grounded in re- spect – fuelling violence and hatred is unacceptable. Every single member of our society has a right to dignity, to feel safe and respected. Our politi- cal class and those in positions of influence, in particular, need to set the standard and be held to account when they fail to live up to these very basic stand- ards," Pisani says. But Pisani also believes that the far-right discourse target- ing migrant communities, is scapegoating some of the most marginalised members of Mal- tese society for an unsustain- able economic model adopted by various governments across The way we speak, the way the economy hits the weakest among us... explaining the seduction of the far-right in the 2019 European elections is no mean feat A matter of politics and community: fighting the far-right Nazi apologist Norman Lowell practising a non-offensive salute Nationalist MP Claudio Grech: "There is no future for Malta if we ingrain an island mentality in our children's minds growing up in a world which is hyper- connected"

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