The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

The true story of Forza Nazzjonali

Timothy Alden Sunday, 23 June 2019, 09:31 Last update: about 30 days ago

Although the coalition between the Nationalist Party and Partit Demokratiku is long gone, I have recently found myself in discussions with many people who are unclear about the intentions that my Party had when entering into that agreement. I was present when the coalition agreement was signed, but I have made the mistake of assuming that others know the same things that I do simply because, having been there, it feels like common knowledge.

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Let me therefore turn the clock back to discuss the 2017 election once again. It was a snap election, with little time for people to be presented with the full story. I am simply going to stick to what I can verify from personal experience, speaking as a former candidate of Partit Demokratiku and as a founding member.

The first misconception seems to be that Partit Demokratiku ‘used’ the Nationalist Party to get seats in Parliament. On the contrary, the many months of discussions over a coalition were not in any way straightforward. There were many in Partit Demokratiku who did not even want a coalition at all, out of fear of our nascent party losing its identity. In the end, what united us with the Nationalist Party was a common platform in favour of good governance, social justice and the environment, all against tribalism, apart from other considerations. After all, what greater show can one make against tribalism than a coalition?

While the marketing behind the campaign was flawed, as many people only heard ‘corruption’, the joint manifesto was lengthy and had too many proposals, not too few. We had a common goal and a common vision. Unfortunately, the people with whom we shared that dream have been replaced by a new leader who has attacked the environment whenever he can get away with it.

Another misconception is that Partit Demokratiku should not have entered into a coalition because the Nationalist Party was not a credible party with which to fight alongside against corruption. To a certain extent, that is correct, in the sense that the Nationalist Party sowed the seeds for many problems that have grown to fruition today, such as the 2006 Rationalisation exercise. This is leading to the further destruction of our countryside even today.
The difference is that Partit Demokratiku was entering into a coalition with a leader and team that had never been in power before and did not carry the same level of blame for such past errors. We also believed we would be a check and balance on such a government, and the watchdog in Parliament. In fact, though Partit Demokratiku was not given the chance to be a check and balance in an administration, we nonetheless are now acting as the watchdog in Parliament, critical of the misdeeds of both major parties.

It was what we were elected to do. The easy path for our MPs to take would have been to say nothing and remain part of the ruling party with all of the goodies it provides. The second easiest path for our PD MPs would have been for them to cross the floor and join the Partit Nazzjonalista. Nobody seems to realise that making a new party was the least selfish and most difficult of all paths.

Yet another misconception is that Partit Demokratiku ‘stole’ seats. To say such a thing is to imply that the Nationalist Party has a divine right to its seats, and to people’s votes. No political party in Malta owns anybody’s vote. The only people who own their vote are the individuals. Individuals chose to vote for Partit Demokratiku, and it is these Partit Demokratiku voters who got us into Parliament. Let us not insult the intelligence of these voters or their independence. Furthermore, the ‘extra’ votes Marlene Farrugia brought to the coalition in District 5 allowed for the Nationalist Party to just barely elect a second MP there. It balanced out.

The coalition fell apart not because Partit Demokratiku used the Nationalist Party or vice versa, or because we had no common platform to begin with. It was because the Nationalist Party had a change of leader with baggage and, since the election of Adrian Delia, it has suffered two internal ‘civil wars’ which have absolutely nothing to do with Partit Demokratiku, and is now suffering a third.

When the coalition ended, it was ultimately because Partit Demokratiku refused to acknowledge Adrian Delia’s legitimacy as Leader of the Opposition. As a result, many still see us as traitors to this day. Instead, it seems we were right to foresee that he was not suitable for the role. We held the banner of good governance flying high even when most had fallen into line behind Delia. I will not bother to reach for the satisfaction of saying: ‘We told you so’. Instead, I ask: ‘So where do we go from here?’

It is up to the Nationalist Party to sort out its mess. I feel personally betrayed by many of my former colleagues from the coalition who refused to back us and remained loyal to Delia, only to now turn on him anyway. If we are traitors, then what does that make them? Partit Demokratiku has been consistent. Should the Nationalists ever get their act together under a new leader, and are willing to atone for their past mistakes, then they will be following the path already taken by Partit Demokratiku in 2017.

We were elected to be the watchmen in Parliament, and we will continue to act as such in the national interest, working with all those of principle regardless of their party affiliation. The country must always come before the party. Time will tell if those who held their silence will remember those who were brave enough to speak the truth from the beginning.

 

Mr Alden is the interim Deputy Leader of Partit Demokratiku

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