The Malta Independent 24 October 2020, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Independence Day – Covid spares PN’s blushes

Friday, 18 September 2020, 08:54 Last update: about 2 months ago

The third week of September for many years was associated with the Nationalist Party.

The evenings used to be filled with activities organised by the PN to celebrate Independence Day. For a whole week, the Granaries Square in Floriana became a PN home, with food and information stands set up, political discussions held, very often involving the party leader, and offering a meeting place for thousands of people who identified with the party.

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The culmination of activities then came on the 20th of September, the eve of Independence Day, when a mass meeting was held, attracting huge crowds year in, year out. The speech delivered by the party leader was the highlight, as it served to indicate the way forward, both when the party was in government, and also when it was in opposition.

The PN gave great importance to Independence Day even when there were attempts to minimise the historical development achieved in 1964. During the dark pre-1987 years of Labour, Independence Day was not listed among the national holidays. But, in defiance, the PN still held events to celebrate the occasion, with PN supporters risking their well-being too as there were times when they were pelted with stones.

They were different times in a different era.

The last few years have not been good for the PN, and the Independence activities suffered too. Attendances dwindled as the party faced one internal crisis after another. An effort to revitalise the Independence events by moving them to the open area near the Parliament building – some say this was done to hide the fact that not too many people were taking part – did not bring in new enthusiasm. Last year’s mass meeting was one of the smallest ever.

Another year has passed and, this time, the Nationalist Party did not organise any activities related to Independence Day. Officially, this has been done because of the situation regarding Covid-19. With restrictions in place related to social gatherings and mass activities, the party has opted not to hold any events. Rightly so, one may add.

But, in a way, the Coronavirus restrictions have served as a blessing in disguise for the PN. It would have been very awkward for the party to hold such celebrations right in the middle of a campaign for the leadership. Disputes between the two candidates on air-time and space in the PN media have abounded in the past days, and one can only imagine what would have happened if any official party activities had been held during Independence week.

Three years ago, when Delia took over, the leadership race was over just in time before the Independence Day celebrations started, and were used to “introduce” Delia as the new party and Opposition Leader, with Delia finishing them off by addressing a mass meeting for the first time. This time, although it was originally intended for the party to conclude the leadership race before 21 September, the lengthy process will take the race beyond that date.

This year, the third week of September will serve for the two candidates vying for the leadership to submit their nomination for the post. In the space of seven years, this is the third race for the leadership when, previously, the PN had only three leaders between 1950 and 2013.

Different times, a different era indeed.

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