The Malta Independent 11 December 2017, Monday

L-aqwa żmien

Stephen Calleja Wednesday, 9 August 2017, 09:29 Last update: about 5 months ago

Immediately after the election, the Labour Party moved on quickly, elected a new deputy leader within weeks and, as a government, is running the country smoothly, building on the previous four years’ work.

In the meantime, the Opposition that does not know what hit it.

More than two months after the election, the Nationalist Party is still riddled with internal bickering that is exposing cracks that are quickly widening. No day passes without some MP, official or someone deeply placed in the party coming up with some controversial statement that re-opens wounds, giving Labour and its media so much fodder with which to attack the PN.

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A total of 15 weeks would have passed since the election for the PN to have a new leader, an eternity in politics. This is being done because of a complicated, lengthy exercise that is bringing out the fragility and weaknesses of a party that thought it had recovered after the 2013 debacle, dreamed of winning an election because, it said, the other party was corrupt, but which now finds itself in a position which is worse than that of four years ago.

It will still not be over after the leader’s election, because the party would then have to elect its two deputy leaders and other officials in the executive and administration.

There is also the possibility that a new leader would entail the resignation of one MP from the House of Representatives; with outgoing leader Simon Busuttil saying he would like to stay on this could bring about further wrangling. Busuttil’s decision has already divided the party between those who want him to stay on and others who insist he should repeat what Lawrence Gonzi did – resign his seat after the new leader is elected.

Six months – which is not an insignificant one-tenth of the legislature, if it lasts the whole five years – will have passed before the PN could say that the changeover is completed and a new chapter begun. Too much.

By then, the government machine would have continued to gather momentum, and the PN will most likely find it hard to catch up. At least, this time round, it did not fall into the trap prepared by Labour – in 2014, the PL had found the PN still in tatters after the electoral defeat of the previous year, and passed the civil unions law with an Opposition that abstained because of its internal squabbles; this time, the PN were more careful on gay marriage, although the party still had to face its in-house issues, with Edwin Vassallo voting against and other MPs not turning up for the vote.

But there is no doubt that Labour is relishing the moment.

Labour could not have come up with a better slogan for their (eventually) victorious election campaign. “L-aqwa żmien”, they said, referring to the past four years having been the launching pad towards better times for the country and, of course, also for the party.

They could not have known then that they would have won so handsomely, and ironically with an almost equal margin as that registered in 2013, a clear indication that the people think that a party mired in corruption allegations is still better than today’s PN.

They could not have known that the election would have triggered so much dissent within their political adversaries, with MPs now going as far as saying that the outgoing leader is “authoritarian” and did not leave any room for discussion.

Labour now knows that it can work to fulfil its promise of bringing about “l-aqwa żmien” with an Opposition that is struggling to find its feet, and will not be able to do so anytime soon. 

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