Cuando te toca la cortinita...

Jonathan Sacramento - Thursday 10th October 2019

I’m unsure as to the origins of this phrase. Some people attribute it to the late Sir Joshua Hassan. I’ve heard others quote Sir Peter Caruana saying it.

The principle is a sound one. It alludes to the sense of sobriety and responsibility that takes over when you’re in the voting booth. You’re past the voting curtain, which briefly touches your shoulder. That is the defining point. There are no more debates before you, no manifestos, no press conferences and no activists. It’s just you and the ballot paper.

What goes through the average individual’s mind? What has been the single biggest influence on your decision?

It could be that you’re a party supporter, and your mind was already made up months, if not years ago. It could also be that you’ve read all the party manifestos cover to cover and made a solid decision based on your analysis of every commitment. My instinct is that this type of voter forms a very small percentage of the community.

There may also be ‘single issue’ voters, who scan manifestos for the subject that matters most to them. If you’re a trade unionist, you’re likely to seek out workers’ rights. If you’re a pro-life or pro-choice activist, you’re bound to look up the party’s commitments on abortion.

The candidates’ performance on debates may also be a factor which voters consider when placing their crosses. GBC has provided an extensive level of programming- every candidate has been exposed on at least one television or radio programme. By the end of the campaign, voters will have had the opportunity to examine the performance of each one, based solely on our output, if that is the criteria they wish to use.

Street visibility is also a factor. In a small place like Gibraltar, people like to be able to rub shoulders with the people they’re being asked to vote for. They want to feel connected. See their faces, shake their hands. This is why old school methods like street rallies and hustings will never really go away, despite the growing social media trends.

Momentum is incredibly important. Despite their clichés about how ‘the election is the only poll that matters’, candidates will keep a very keen eye on these indicators. The most trustworthy polls will always be conducted by the traditional media, but even online polls, which can be distorted and corrupted by data mining and proxy servers will receive a cursory glance here and there, sometimes more.

And ultimately, there is always something to be said for the cult of personality. Gibraltar has always been blessed by good political leaders, and personal charisma counts for a lot in a small place where you can get to know them face to face.

But when you boil it down, it eventually comes to the curtain moment. At this point, all the information the voter has received in the past four weeks will seem like a blur.

The ‘gut feeling’ will kick in and become a contributor that drives that pencil towards the box.

The floating voter will be moved by small margins. A manifesto reference here, a debate performance there, or maybe even just a ‘sense’ that the vote they’re casing is the right thing.

This is the X-factor of local politics. It is undefinable, but every person who has been touched by the curtain will know what it means.