The Malta Independent 9 August 2020, Sunday

TMID Editorial: A new third party – a coherent ideology is key

Wednesday, 8 July 2020, 09:53 Last update: about 2 months ago

Malta’s political history has never been kind to political parties which are not the Labour Party or the Nationalist Party.

Before 2017, no party besides the aforementioned juggernauts had managed to win a seat in Parliament after Malta’s independence – the last time that a different party did make it into parliament was in 1962, when five parties made it into Parliament.

However that changed in 2017, when the new Democratic Party managed to elect two MPs into parliament – although this can be largely pinned down to the fact that they were on the PN’s ballot sheet as part of a coalition and not on their own.

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With their presence in parliament, many had hoped that Malta finally had a third political party with some political clout and relevance. Three years on however, that hope has not transferred into reality.

Marlene and Godfrey Farrugia’s resignation from the PD soon after the MEP elections last year means that the party is now technically no longer represented in parliament. Indeed since then, the party has done very little of note as the people who remained in it figured out the way forward.

That is, up until Monday. On Monday, Timothy Alden – a founding member of the party – was elected as its new leader.

Alden’s leadership will represent an intriguing shift to the party’s course – he will be seeking a merger with Malta’s perennial political minnow AD, which has existed since the 1980s with, save for Wenzu Mintoff swapping sides from the PL to AD in parliament and Arnold Cassola nearly winning a seat in the European Parliament in 2004, very little to show.

In the run up to his election as leader, Alden had said that the aim of this merger would be to create a home and a refuge for concerned citizens.

“We will build a new party, taking the best elements of both our existing ones,” Alden had said.

The development of this new party will no doubt be followed with interest by many voters – especially as the PN continues to be fraught with in-fighting.

There are several things to consider – mainly, what will this new party stand for? Both the PD and AD had strong pro-environment and anti-corruption stances; however there wasn’t necessarily that convergence on other issues.

For instance, AD has shown itself to be more receptive to those of a more liberal standing – one of their MEP candidates Mina Tolu is, for instance, was the first to call for a “respectful debate” on abortion – a stance which eventually led to Arnold Cassola departing the party, and then garnering more votes as an independent candidate than the whole of AD did.

The PD meanwhile had consistently been more conservative; while one of their candidates, Camilla Appelgren – who is no longer involved in politics – had rocked the apple cart with her views on abortion, others within the party such as, but not limited to, Godfrey Farrugia, were among the more staunch opponents to this proposal.

This is just one example, but it illustrates that settling on a political ideology for this merger is a major hurdle which has to be surpassed before anything else.

When talking of a third party however one thing needs to be kept in mind – history shows us that in Malta, they simply do not get votes.

Any new party therefore needs to think outside of the box to make itself appealing to a society which is largely consumed by a love for political tribalism.

Robert Abela may have said that waves belong in the sea, but this new party will need to make waves in the Maltese political sphere if it wants to survive.

 

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