The Malta Independent 27 May 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: Small parties - PD, AD and the rest

Saturday, 16 February 2019, 10:15 Last update: about 4 months ago

In two terse statements, which arrived in our newsroom almost simultaneously earlier this week, Partit Demokratiku (PD) and Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) said that they had discussed ways of cooperating with each other.

They made it clear that there is, at least so far, no intention for the two to "formalise the relationship", but they see the need to coordinate their political efforts to serve the country in the best way possible.

Small parties have always had it tough in Malta, in particular since the country obtained its independence in 1964. Since then, we had a two-party system in Parliament which was only broken in the late 1980s when then MP Wenzu Mintoff broke ranks with the Labour Party and began to represent the new party he co-founded, AD, and more recently when the newly-formed PD won two seats in the House of Representatives, largely thanks to the coalition it had formed in 2017 with the Nationalist Party.

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Wenzu Mintoff was not re-elected when he contested the 1992 election on behalf of AD, and one has to see whether the two PD MPs, Godfrey Farrugia and Marlene Farrugia, will make it to Parliament again next time round.

That the two parties chose to hold talks and look for ways to work together makes it clear that both are struggling to make their voices heard and reach out to the community. It is also evident that they both lack the human and financial resources to be more present in the political sphere.

Their efforts must be commended, because in spite of their limitations many times they are the voice of reason in a hugely-polarised situation. The fact that they have nothing to defend and no strings attached gives them the freedom to speak their mind, without having to consider the consequences of losing support. They pick on important issues and say it as it is, without having to balance between the need to push an idea and the controversy that it could generate.

There are subjects on which the two parties seem to have common ground, such as the environment, a topic on which both AD and PD have frequently expressed their concern. But whether there is a stronger convergence on their ideology is a matter that has to be thrashed out fair and square before the two sides decide to pursue and upgrade their relationship.

It would be wrong to rush headlong into an association of convenience, as this could ultimately backfire. In its short life, PD has already had to move away from a coalition it formed with the PN and any new bond must be carefully considered. Added to this, an alliance will not necessarily make the AD and PD stronger.

Their next test is the European Parliament election, for which both the PD and AD are fielding three candidates. The results they obtain in May could help them reach a decision on the way forward in their relationship.

But, whatever the outcome, the two parties must remember that, in spite of their small size, they have a huge role to play in our politics, and it would be a shame if any attempt to join forces would ultimately spell their downfall.


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