The Malta Independent 16 August 2017, Wednesday

Opinion: What does the Nationalist Party stand for? - Tonio Fenech

Tonio Fenech Wednesday, 14 June 2017, 09:11 Last update: about 3 months ago

The only true answer I can give is I don’t know.  During this legislature it stood against corruption and for honest politics but beyond that the Party has been left in a vacuum, bringing it to the point of irrelevance.  

Over the past four years this was the hardest question that at the end I found so difficult to answer.   I had no confusion when I joined the Party 20 years ago.  I wanted to be part of a Christian Democratic party that sought to make a stronger and fairer society. While embracing globalization, we did not shy away from protecting our society from its negatives. 

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We modernised our economy to create more and better jobs, but did this within the context of a social market economy that sought to ensure solidarity and social justice.  Our focus was the individual, his right to education, having the basis of a society founded on strong families, but a society that struck the right balance between individual rights and the common good.  We were not perfect, but we stood for what we believed.

Post the 2013 election, building an argument on the basis of the Party’s values became inconvenient.  The Party fell into relativism, where values became something personal and should not be part of the debate.  We were told that to win the election we needed to be open and accept that the values of others and our values are equal.  

Our candidate list became interesting, fielding a declared anarchist that believes that Christianity is the cause of all evil, under the banner of a Christian Democrat Party.   It became more important for the Party to have this type of candidate, who in the end only garnered 115 votes, than a candidate who in the previous election had obtained nearly 8,000 first count votes.

This notion may sound very appealing to a modern free-thinking society, but it is also akin to the destruction of the notion of a political party which, by definition is a group of people who share common values and programs.

The PN leadership had lost the confidence of being able to win an election with our values.   It did not have the patience to rebuild, rather looked for quick wins, falling into Labour’s trap of making it a race on who gives more civil liberties - a race that we could never win. 

Labour will always be a step ahead as its leadership has no red line. When it had them professed them, it still crossed them when politically convenient.  A case in point is when it threw civil liberty issues around simply to detract attention from, say, the Panama Papers scandal, with Joseph Muscat trying to divert attention by throwing gay marriage in the mix when the scandal broke.

Our anti-corruption battle cry and the honesty banner seemed the only value the Nationalist Party upheld during this campaign.  Don’t get me wrong, honesty is a very important value, and in no way am I excusing this Government that has tarnished Malta’s reputation big time.  More so by trying to excuse its massive wrongdoing by selling the line that corruption is ok as long as you are ok.  Labour then engaged in a massive Government effort of making every vote mean something personal; a job, a better pay package, a promotion, with a give-whatever-is-asked-for mentality, securing another massive electoral victory.

However, honesty is not the only value that distinguishes a Christian Democratic Party. The values of the common good, social justice, solidarity, upholding the value of the traditional family, the value of life and the upholding of Christian ethics in society are also critical values that should distinguish us and be compounded with a vision of how we feel our society should be and how we intend to attain this.

In Europe, the the biggest political group in the European Parliament is the EPP - a grouping of Parties from across the continent that are openly inspired by Christian Democratic values.  Only in March this year, at the EPP congress was held in Malta, speaker after speaker, leaders of political parties across Europe in their speeches advocated Europe’s Christian Democratic values, including the President of the Commission, Jean Claude Junker, and the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani.

Sadly, in Malta, the Nationalist Party while retaining the Nationalist brand, flag and anthem in an attempt not to alienate its core vote of traditional practicing Catholics, made a conscious decision to make the Party look more Liberal.  It is difficult for me to count how many core Nationalists have expressed with me their pain and confusion that, as a party, we do not seem to stand for anything.

Some say the PN is not their home anymore, others that we have sold our soul for votes, which did not come our way anyway.

In wanting to be seen as being more liberal, the Party simply became more like Labour on many issues, making our opinion irrelevant and unnoticed.  The practicing Catholic electorate however felt homeless, with no one representing their voice on issues that concerned them.  If this situation is extended further, the Party risks even losing its core to other parties that will appeal to their values.

I urge the councillors and the members of the Nationalist Party (of which I am still member) to give the Party back to its voters.  This country urgently needs a Christian Democratic force.  I for one will not remain a member of a Liberal Party even if it dresses in the Nationalist costume.

People will come back to the Nationalist Party if we believe in our values.   Politics happen in cycles - at some point people will also grow tired of Labour and we must have the patience to rebuild the Party on the values we believe in, to show that we are ready and competent enough to serve, when called upon, without the need to become unrecognizable and simply just any other party.

Tonio Fenech, PN, former Finance Minister 

 

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