The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

TMIS Editorial: Downsize me

Sunday, 22 September 2019, 10:00 Last update: about 24 days ago

Just when we need them, no one seems to be there.

The Nationalist Party's traditional Independence celebration, a staple in the party's calendar year, was on Friday reduced to a pint-sized pep rally. It was not as though Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia had nothing to say to the faithful congregation - he did. There just weren't the people there to listen.

The decision to move the venue of what is traditionally a Nationalist Party celebration from the fabled venue of The Granaries, which holds tens of thousands of people, to the porch of Dar Ċentrali, which holds but a fraction of that, is well known and it has been taken thoroughly to task.

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Yes, it was about the party's somewhat lacklustre financial situation, and the party was perhaps not in a position to fork out the sums required for a Granaries extravaganza, but it was also about the optics.

The party couldn't really have had its mass meeting at The Granaries, when the crowd would not have even filled even a fraction of the area.

We all know that and the reasons behind this departure from the norm, but the ramifications of this strange turn of event location.

What it does is signify a weak opposition on its knees and hardly able to pick itself up off the ground after all that has come to pass within the party of late. This is most distressing, and even though it is acknowledged that the party limited the damage to the best of its abilities, it was simply not enough considering the fact that its back is well and truly up against the ropes when it comes to the non-stop political bouts.

And Independence also comes on the cusp of the reopening of Parliament, when much will hang in the balance, and for the Opposition to go into that particular boxing ring in the wake of such a dreadful showing at its yearly highlight does not bode well at all.

And it bodes even worse considering the solemn constitutional role the opposition plays in our country, in that having a strong opposition is the main underpinning of a strong democracy. Not only is a strong opposition able to challenge the government and keep it in check, but it is also collaborates with the government and provides essential input on the drafting of new laws and policies.

And, as such, the opposition's role is essential even more so in this current day and age. The PN must get its house in order. The country and its people - red, blue, orange, green or whatever political stripe - are depending on it.

But with a downsized party - downsized in all but the leader's words, which still carry weight - solace in the fact that the Opposition will be able to effectively stand up to the government and its machinations is becoming all the more dubious.

And in light of all this, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Friday night delivered a master class in drubbing a political opponent. The opportunity to upstage Delia, in the grandest of ways, was not missed on Muscat or his public relations team.

On the evening of the Opposition leader's traditional Independence speech, a previously unannounced and sudden press call was issued to the effect that the prime minister was to open one of the fabled flyovers at Marsa, which he did about an hour before Adrian Delia was due to take the stage. The prime minister described it as his government's Independence present to the nation.

Shortly after, another surprise was in store: the launching of the long-awaited public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a mere 45 minutes before he was about to address the party faithful.

One may talk about pulling the rug and stealing the thunder, but the double move was a master stroke par excellence.

Over his still short tenure, Delia has been hit by revolt after rebellion, and rebellion after revolt, ever since he stepped foot in his office in Pietà, not to mention the personal trials and tribulations which have gripped the national attention from time to time - far more than his actual political messages have gripped the nation.

That may be just a question of the nation's priorities being warped beyond belief, but it is also a symptom of the quagmire in which the Opposition finds itself entrenched.

It is clear that Delia still has a massive uphill struggle if he wants to bring the party back into elector favour. But what is more concerning is that, despite his efforts, it doesn't seem to be working.


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