The Malta Independent 25 June 2017, Sunday

‘PN had duty to sound alarm irrespective of journalist publishing allegations’ - Fenech Adami

Gabriel Schembri Monday, 19 June 2017, 12:08 Last update: about 5 days ago

Outgoing Deputy Leader of the Nationalist Party Beppe Fenech Adami speaks to Gabriel Schembri amid post-election blues and an election defeat which left the party shattered. He believes that the PN did the right thing in sounding the alarm and crying foul when blogger and journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed serious allegations regarding the Prime Minister’s wife. Serious allegations have to be met with a serious reaction, irrespective of the journalist who reveals them, he says.

The independent media surveys were all showing that the Labour Party was heading for another big win. Did the PN carry independent surveys that showed otherwise?

As you know, the surveys were indeed showing that the Labour Party would win. However, we were also aware that the difference in percentage fell within the margin of error. More than that, there were a number of people who were either not declaring what their intention to vote was, or who were simply undecided during the time the surveys were being conducted. What happened is that a substantial percentage of those who were marked as undecided made the move and voted to the Labour Party.

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Ultimately, we are experiencing phenomena where surveys show one thing, but in reality, the complete opposite occurs. Just look at the United States with the election of Trump and the polls on Bexit. Malta is no exception.

It’s time we speak of survey fatigue. I think there are a lot of surveys and people are not cooperating as much as they used to do before.  

 

In the last weeks of the campaign the PN did manage to gain a good momentum and probably many believed you could win.

I think those who followed the campaign now realised that the PN has managed to mobilise quite a large number of people. Clearly, many also believed that the party would manage to regain the lost votes and even win the election.

 

Now there is an internal election process for the leadership team. Will your name be on the list?

The leadership of the party has resigned and we have all assumed our political responsibility. I am happy to have worked hard and done everything possible in the last four years to have the party put back on its feet. I think no one is really interested in pointing fingers at someone in particular. I am happy to see that in the last years, we have taken all the very important and necessary decisions. I don’t think there is a sentiment of anger towards the leadership of the party. I gave my all to the party and the PN is back on its feet. We are far more organised than ever before and financially we are on the right track. The election campaign has cost thousands of euros but we are happy to see that all the bills were paid or are in the process of being paid.

The administration which will come after us will have a strong foundation to build on.

One thing I want to make very clear is that I am not resigning from my post as Member of Parliament. I will remain active in the nationalist party and active MP.

 

So I take that’s a no?

I have already declared that I do not intend to contest for the deputy leader or leadership race.

 

Is there a slight possibility that the result of the election is a sign that the public has had enough of the political dynasty of the de Marcos and Fenech Adamis?

On a personal level, I can tell you that I have worked hard in this election and the results for me were very good. The first time I contested, I got less than 2,000 votes. I doubled that number in the 2013 election and now I doubled this last figure in this election. We are now speaking years after I was the ‘son of the PN leader’. So I want to believe that the public appreciates all that I have done to the party and to the country.

I can assure you that in the last four years, I have worked hard and the votes I gained in this election are proof. I will tell you this, without showing off, that I was the third candidate to get most votes after Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil.

 

Looking back at the PN’s campaign, what, in your opinion, went wrong?

Our campaign was based on a theme which is still very relevant today – good governance. It is a fundamental issue and will remain so in the future. The mistake from our end was that we failed to communicate the fact that the economy is doing so well only thanks to the Nationalist Party who managed to create solid strong economic foundations.

I believe that the PN can be proud to say that it has managed to give birth to a modern economic Malta. Joseph Muscat can only boast about managing to use this positive momentum. We should have explained that Muscat’s success is a direct consequence of the success and the economic stability which was brought about by the previous PN governments, in a time when there was an economic crisis around the globe, especially in Europe.

I believe we did not have the courage and the ability to pass on this important message.

 

Was the PN prepared for a snap election? Or did Muscat catch you off guard?

One thing is sure, that no one knew that Joseph Muscat would be made to call a snap election so soon. This had its effect on the Nationalist Party. I was part of the PN leadership and we observed what was happening. Although we were seeing the story unfolding and watched as Joseph Muscat made his position no longer tenable, it really dawned on us in the last couple of months before the election that things are getting real.

Realistically, if someone would have told us that the government would have called an election a year earlier than predicted, no one would have believed him. So naturally, having the election earlier than usual, did pose a challenge for the party. There were plans which were laid out for five years which had to be suddenly halted.

 

Was the coalition among these plans?

What happened was that we always dealt with this issue in phases. I mean, we spoke about the election, pre-pre-election and pre-election period. Suddenly, all these were mashed up together. Looking back, I think we did a good job in adapting. Of course, we had a more rigorous plan which included items on the agenda related to the coalition.

 

Anything big in particular which was in the pipeline but had to be postponed?

We had more policy documents waiting to be published. Personally, I was at an advanced stage in publishing a policy document in relation to internal affairs, justice, prison, security and so on.

 

Did you manage to include any of these policies in the election manifesto?

We did manage to insert some. But I would have been much happier if I had the time to present it properly and make the necessary adjustments. There was a schedule for the publication of these documents. Everyone thought that an early election would mean October or November. I think the decision to call for an election so soon shocked even the media.

 

Let’s go back to the coalition. Do you think the PN-PD coalition did more good than harm?

With hindsight, I believe that we did something good also because it was a first for the country. This is a story of two parties who have managed to find common ground in fundamental principles. We agreed on the basic leadership approach that is best for this country. One can interpret it as bringing about positive and negative results. The most important thing to remember is that although there might be some disagreement, we have always taken the decision according to what we believed was right at the time.

 

Who was managing this election campaign? Were people like Richard Cachia Caruana involved?

Obviously the campaign involved a lot of people but the final decisions were always taken by the party executive.

But was Richard Cachia Caruana involved?

Not directly.

 

Do you think Daphne Caruana Galizia helped the PN’s campaign? Or did it cause more harm than good?

Daphne Caruana Galizia is like any other journalist. God forbid we start silencing journalists. But we have to be honest and make it very clear that Caruana Galizia was instrumental in publishing loads of information which is verifiable and true. The involvement by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi in the Panama Papers is a very good example.

Now if you had to ask me if I agree with everything she writes, I would say no. But who am I to try and silence her or any other journalist?

 

But the main criticism in this regard was that the PN jumped on Caruana Galizia’s bandwagon throughout this whole campaign.

The PN had the obligation to speak out when such a scandal is revealed. Independently of where the information was coming from, we have the duty to raise the alarm and sound the seriousness of such allegations.

Should that information have been revealed by anyone other journalists, the same reaction would have been caused. 

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