The Malta Independent 28 June 2022, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: PN needs stability

Thursday, 19 May 2022, 09:14 Last update: about 2 months ago

As expected, Bernard Grech will be the sole contender for the Nationalist Party’s leadership post.

In spite of suffering a third consecutive electoral defeat, it is arguably the best scenario for a party that has gone through three changes of leadership since 2013. The PN cannot afford to have to start over again with a new leader.

One cannot really blame Grech for last March’s debacle. He took over the reins of the party 18 months before the election, long after the damage had been done. So when, soon after the election result, he made it clear that he wants to stay on, he was effectively sending a message that the party must give him a second chance, one that lasts a full legislature.

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In these post- election weeks, we have already seen a more confident Grech. Before the election, he appeared to struggle at every hurdle. The fact that he was thrown into the political arena to sort the internal upheaval the PN was going through at the time did not give him enough power to take the tougher decisions. He was perhaps showing too much gratitude to those that put him there.

But the election has changed things. For one thing, Grech is now elected, not co-opted, to Parliament, and that is already one big difference.

The election result has sent the PN to the opposition benches again, but Nationalist voters gave strong signals to their party with the candidates they preferred, and Grech has shown that he has realised what these signals are.

He is now not afraid to take decisions that he would probably not have taken in the months leading to the election.

The way he dealt with the Jason Azzopardi affair was the first sign that Grech now has a firmer grasp on the party. The same happened with the Albert Buttigieg situation over the weekend. Some people blame everyone but themselves for their failures.

And then, when last Sunday Grech said that many councillors he had met had told him that they were sick and tired of people who were using the party for their personal gain, he was again telling all his MPs, officials and candidates that they must show more loyalty to the party.

Another sign given by Grech in these past weeks was his decision to leave out veteran MPs Mario de Marco, Chris Said and Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici from his shadow Cabinet. It was a way of saying that the party must move forward, and it will only be able to become electable if it is seen as fresh.

He has been criticised for making what some described as an unpopular move that sounded like he was reneging the Gonzi government, but it is then decisions like these that show that Grech now feels that he has solidified his position in the party.

The PN has passed through its most difficult decade in political history.

It now needs to gain stability. It must address its financial woes and at the same time show itself as an alternative to Labour.

Grech’s task will not be easy.

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