The Malta Independent 21 October 2017, Saturday

The PN leadership race

Michael Asciak Sunday, 13 August 2017, 09:14 Last update: about 3 months ago

As the PN leadership race goes on, those of us entitled to vote will slowly but surely decide for whom to vote. This is a race among colleagues and therefore one should work and proceed to canvass with a modicum of understanding, moderation and tolerance that is not so evident in other political races. The fact remains that after one has decided, as I have already, whom to vote for, one should keep in mind that if one’s first preference is not successful then the next in line also needs my endorsement because to be elected one must obtain two thirds of the vote. Therefore the less histrionics between all candidates and their supporters and more respect shown to everyone, the better it is for all.

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I must begin by expressing my thanks to the previous team led by Dr Simon Busuttil who I am sure all gave it their best shot even though there were issues we did not agree on sometimes. I have no doubt that on the several main issues however, we have always agreed. At the end of the day one tries one’s best and leaves things to providence or fate as one prefers. It takes a very mature person to accept personal responsibility for a failure even if the fault may not have been entirely one’s own but was due to extenuating circumstances. It has been said that in these hot summer months one had to discern the profile of the individual who would best fill the place of the present leader. I have tried to think of the qualities of the person needed for such a job and I am sure that all candidates have their own experiences and qualifications that potentially may suit them to fulfil the requisites of the difficult the aspire to occupy. It is not easy to identify a profile of an individual with the right qualifications for the job but I have tried to come up with some of my own.

Preferably, the candidate should have the necessary experience in the Party, in Parliament and government to be able to better understand any political situations that come up for debate and action. Parliamentary experience is definitely an asset and solves the problem if the elected candidate is a sitting parliamentarian as there will be no need for anyone to vacate his/her seat and the individual concerned can swiftly be sworn in as Leader of the Opposition. I would look for a person who is a family man and who has or has had children who can understand the difficulties that most people have to face in their daily struggles with family! People with families are sensitive enough to discern situations where they need to be tough and others where the bark has to be worse than the bite. I would look for an individual of good moral character who can and has shown from his behaviour in the past that the concept of the common good is foremost. Of course, he would need to have his profession and finances in order, and no undeclared bank accounts anywhere in the world, particularly Panama. He would have to be a person who can work with others and allows others to work with him across a political spectrum that sways from the centre right to the centre left.

It doesn’t matter where the other foot is as long as one foot is stuck in the centre, that way one cannot stray too far from the centre. He should not be a politician with a populist perspective but stick to the party’s political principles and show that he can identify and target the country’s problems both in the short term and in the long term. He must be a person that can take decisions but a person who can work with a team and in a team with adequate and real dialogue and using all resources available in the party. He must identify the social partners in the economic, financial, environmental and social field and work with them to build up a just civil society. He should continue to be able to work with the other countries in the European Union in order to strengthen the rights of peoples in this union and to make it a stronger one to further establish a more just world order.

He must also have strong momentum for bringing about the necessary changes in the party and country and be able to capture the imagination of the people, a correct reading of the sensus fidei. He has to show a profound respect for the different ethical positions on certain issues that come up allowing ethical spaces to be carved out for those with conscience problems about these issues which will now crop up more frequently at the same time not holding back from adopting a party position if so merited. He must reorganise the party to a deeper level so that it is more in touch with its roots and he must establish a level playing field for party activists/candidates rather that the formation of cliques that sometimes discourage many, especially the younger individuals, from moving ahead. He needs to set up a party think-tank again at AZAD as used to happen in the past. He must establish the virtues again, especially the virtues of justice, fortitude and temperance but also that of prudence.

He has to have the courage to bring about profound changes to the party media so that not only is it a fairer more equitable institution for all activists/candidates, but also seeks to approach the truth in politics in a less partisan manner so that the end product is more acceptable to all. The language in the political media also has to change. We have to move away from the partisan concept of media and focus on giving more balanced reporting and programmes with access to everyone and acceptable to everyone in civil society. We have created a polis where listening to the news of the two main political parties makes one think one is living in a different country. It may be necessary to find a strategic economic partner to assure this and increase profitability, but we must leave this sterile position we are in now and if the other party does not follow suit we have to leave them to continue speaking to themselves alone!

Lastly, he must be able to show up this dilettante government we have for what it is, a government of dilettantes for dilettantes. People see and know virtue and seriousness in politics when they see it. They also know mediocrity and lack of virtue even if sometimes they opt to vote for it. The new leader should have a strong sense of virtue, appealing to the strong sense of virtue that is innate in the Maltese people. For if one has the temerity to appeal to this sense of virtue and just government, no amount of philandering and personal favours will be able to stop the tsunami that will finally sweep this Labour government away when its time is up!

Dr Asciak is Senior Lecturer II in Applied Science at MCAST.

michael.asciak@parlament.mt

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