The Malta Independent 18 November 2017, Saturday

The key issue

Rachel Borg Saturday, 15 July 2017, 09:29 Last update: about 4 months ago

The crucial vote has come and gone but the real battle still lies ahead for the Nationalist Party.  It has come out bruised and flustered and in serious need of a reformation before it scatters in the wind.

Time will tell if Simon Busuttil's insistence and persistence on keeping the whip together for the Marriage Equality Bill was the right call.  He is convinced that it is and dug in with all his energy to ensure that it held tight.  Whether this unflailing support was motivated by a genuine desire to see the bill enacted or whether it was his destiny to take the party to the other side of the river-bank, come what may, is debatable.  He does appear to have held a strong personal belief that the time had come for the party to move forward on an agenda that had been lacking before, perhaps due to the pressure to focus on economic and global issues such as the 2008 banking crises and the immigration problem. 

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The fact remains that he was there at this time and place and assumed responsibility even when effectively he had resigned as a leader, remaining in place until such time as a new leader is chosen.  It has similarities with the UK's Theresa May promising to take Britain out of the EU, calling the early election to bolster her prospects and then losing majority support which called into question how much of a mandate she really has to proceed with Brexit, seeing as the very same reason for her to gain support backfired.

Perceiving an over-play, the people started getting uneasy.  They felt an itch and a worry creeping up on them.  Voices began to emerge and others began to fade.  Objections were raised and arguments charged with emotion were a destabilising factor, upsetting the theory of unity.  Was he to be censored or admired for his single-minded endeavour of having the parliamentary group vote unanimously in favour of the bill?

TV interviews did little to convince the conscience of nervous members of the party that this was the right thing to do.  Many felt that a free vote would be more fair and representative of the different views that go to make up the body of members of the PN if not of its Council.  Eventually, the offence grew bigger and some very serious accusations were being made about the style and management of the party. 

So, Simon Busuttil may have got to the other side of the stream on civil rights but was it on the back of the scorpion who in the end stings you no matter what it said, because that is it's nature and has the PN actually crossed the divide?

The new leader is going to have to do a root canal, extracting the truth, the blame, the courage, the secrecy, the honesty and the very way things have been done in the last couple of decades.  Breaking the security blanket of cliques and making space for individuals and intellect would be a breath of fresh air.

A concentration of power around Dr Eddie Fenech Adami's office, a new way of doing politics under Dr Lawrence Gonzi with the detachment of influence by the Ministries and the European style of fighting corruption brought in by Dr Simon Busuttil have all left their marks on the health and outlook of philosophy of innovation and renovation with the party. 

Is the PN invigorated or will it now fall into itself and remain in decline amidst the opposing views that have been either ignored, silenced or discouraged from contributing creatively to the very life and soul that would normally embody an energetic debate and has there been an over-reach causing a negative reaction?

In India, the Indian National Congress held broadly based politics.  Formed in 1885, the Congress dominated the Indian movement for independence from Great Britain.  It subsequently formed most of India's governments from the time of independence and often had a strong presence in many state governments. 

In 1967, Indira Gandhi faced open revolt within the party, and in 1969 she was expelled from the party by a group called the "Syndicate." Nevertheless, her New Congress Party scored a landslide victory in the 1971 elections, and for a period it was unclear which party was the true rightful heir of the Indian National Congress label. 

Post-independence, in the mid-1970's the New Congress Party's popular support began to fracture.  From 1975 Gandhi's government grew increasingly more authoritarian and unrest among the opposition grew.  On January 2, 1978, she and her followers seceded and formed a new opposition party, popularly called Congress (I)-the "I" signifying Indira. Over the next year, her new party attracted enough members of the legislature to become the official opposition, and in 1981 the national election commission declared it the "real" Indian National Congress. In 1996 the "I" designation was dropped. In November 1979 Gandhi regained a parliamentary seat, and the following year she was again elected prime minister.

The party has traditionally supported socialist economic policies within the framework of a mixed economy.  In the 1990s, however, it endorsed market reforms, including privatization and the deregulation of the economy. It also has supported secular policies that encourage equal rights for all citizens, including those in lower castes.

Mirroring the party's declining fortunes, the party's membership dropped from nearly 40 million in the mid-1990s to under 20 million at the beginning of the 21st century. 

Knowing where to go from here and whether the right balance can be found and harmony restored is the element waiting in the wings of the Nationalist Party as it faces a kind of adolescent identity crises.  Maybe that is why Busuttil has embraced the equal rights issues quite passionately as it reflects similar anxieties that have lain dormant for too long within the Dar Centrali.

In this regard, who will emerge to steer the party towards a vibrant, inclusive and broad political base?  The leader of the party must inspire and create confidence and trust amongst all party members and persons of other persuasions.  The idea that a modern and secular party does not hold a place for conservative and religious followers is undemocratic.  Catholics know how to live in a secular world and continue to contribute enormously to the well-being of humanity. There is nothing to be feared in them and they too need not have any doubt of their importance and role in a modern society.  Setting aside the voice of conservative elements would be a grave mistake but there does not need to be a divide over the values facing us. Ultimately we share the same political goals.  Finding the platform for a newly revived Christian Democratic party is essential for the future of a party presently struggling beneath pulled reins.

Time to shift from adolescent to adult.  Mature politics in a young mind.  Will the next Nationalist Prime Minister please step forward?

 


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