The Malta Independent 13 August 2022, Saturday

Opinion: In free fall, the PN cannot wait for the thud

Friday, 5 August 2022, 08:54 Last update: about 8 days ago

Joseph Agius

The last General Election confirmed a new trend in the voting pattern.  The number of persons so disgruntled by the pernicious state of local politics has increased significantly; this time round some thousands scoffed at the idea of voting at all while others rendered their protest more clamorous by manifestly invalidating it.

Evidently most of these votes once belonged to the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party and now they are up for grabs. The race is on and let no one think that Labour is so confident of its lead that it does not intend to increase it. 

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Our massive political troubles have two origins: the Labour Party (PL) and the Nationalist Party (PN). They have hogged the stage for over 60 years, sturdily blocking, most undemocratically, every possibility of inroads for small parties.

There are unfortunately still thousands firmly convinced that the PN, on its own, is the only party that can provide a strong opposition, and eventually also a sturdy and successful government. This is an absolutely specious, pathetic, and harmful illusion that does not stand up to a minute’s rational review of the situation.

This illusion rests on two very fragile facts: the past history of the Nationalist Party and the huge difference in the number of votes that still separate the PN and the small parties.

The latter reason should shame those who quote it given the ruthless, unscrupulous war the PN, yes, particularly the PN, waged in the last 30 years against small parties: the media exposure it enjoyed on the national media (TV, radio, print), not to mention   the exposure on its own media, and the shameful minuscule space allowed to the small parties, their desperate lack of funds, and the laws enacted by PNPL closing all access to all other means of national visibility. A most uneven playing ground, at times even a vicious one.

Besides, many do not realise that the votes the PN now garners are not ones it has won lately; they are votes automatically inherited from a different, very united party, one whose leaders were more respected, and who could draw huge crowds in protest when battered even physically.

Lately, the PN has only lost votes. But sadly most Maltese cling strongly to their party.  Tradition and past glories are the PN’s bedrock; or worse, its loyalists’ honour lies in their unexamined loyalty. How sad, and bad, is that!

How can one maintain that the PN on its own is able to offer a strong opposition?  It has only suffered one haemorrhage after the other.  If ever there was any hope, it is now evaporating fast. For two main reasons.  The PN is under the dark shadow of a crippling debt. Moreover, this has left a very dark stain on its ability to manage its own finances; and an honest explanation has not been offered yet.  Also, because for these last years it has been painfully splintered and shows no sign of healing. 

Yet another reason why the PN, on its own, can never again be a strong opposition is very simple: it has been rendered ineffective, even impotent, by Labour’s targeted largesse with public funds and unscrupulous power grab in the last ten years: the construction lobby, the Planning Authority, the ERA, a dormant elite of the police corps, errant Attorney Generals, the hunters’ tribe, big business, hordes of rent seekers. This has translated into thousands of votes. The PL has made it indeed difficult for the PN to turn the tide.  

The PN must carry out a reality check to have a clear idea of how it can regain its former favour with its people and what Malta is asking of it. In two years’ time we will have the local council elections; it will be its first important test. It’s time for the NP to take a reality check of its weaknesses, and hammer out a way forward.  

An effort which would raise its prestige is to begin building a broad political church forging alliances with all those ready to do something great for their country.  A coalition - better not call it a movement (the word has been sullied) - under one name and one flag.  The PN has to humble itself if it is to find the support it needs in this national endeavour. I believe that a number of worthy, even non-party, individuals will be ready to join the fray and enter the political arena. With a coalition it will be possible to draw back

the old crowds and give its public manifestations much more punch.

It might not win government in its first attempt but it will surely be a much stronger, more credible opposition, with newer faces and ideas, immune to the usual attacks regarding past political misdemeanours  and to  ‘clever’ sarcasm and applause from government benches.                                 

The PN has to rise, and quickly, to the challenge of the moment and all Maltese of good faith have an active part to play. This could, hopefully, also help the Labour Part save its soul.

 

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