The Malta Independent 4 October 2022, Tuesday
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TMIS Editorial - PN: A new chapter, with an old text

Sunday, 7 August 2022, 11:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

At the end of July the Nationalist Party completed its four-month exercise to first confirm Bernard Grech as its leader and move away from a two-deputy leader system to having just one. In this particular election, we had the uncontested Alex Perici Calascione take on the role, with David Agius and Robert Arrigo stepping aside.

Why it took so much time for the PN to settle its top two rungs is something that the party should look into. It should not take four months from a general election to elect a leader and deputy leader, especially considering that in this particular case it was just a formality, given that both were sole runners for the respective position they now hold. It’s all wasted time.

But, even before Perici Calascione was officially named as the second-in-command of the party, we had the outgoing predecessor – Arrigo – rekindling the fire of dissent that has characterised the PN for so long, too long.

In his last speech before he officially stepped down, Arrigo spoke about his being sidelined by the party, and how he was not allowed to be on stage during the election campaign. He said it hurt him greatly that the party he loved so much had done this to him, and that some thought he was only capable of raising funds.

It did not stop there. In the following days, Arrigo went on with his diatribe, saying that he was the victim of “politics of exclusion”, that he had received a bill – in his name – from the VAT Department after the party had stopped paying its dues, and also pointed his finger at PN leader Grech who, according to Arrigo, was “lying to his party”, a claim that Grech later denied.

In a nutshell, the PN is reliving its nightmare.

Over the past years, the party has experienced several instances in which the dirty linen was being washed in public. Most notably, Grech himself was the “beneficiary” of an internal rebellion which had brought down his predecessor, Adrian Delia. Now it is Grech who is the target of attacks from within, as the Arrigo outbursts clearly show.

Arrigo’s loyalty to the party cannot be put into question. He should not be ashamed of being labelled as someone who raised funds for the party; and he certainly did much more than that, no matter what his detractors say. His track record speaks for itself, as being elected from two districts in four consecutive elections is a great achievement that very few have achieved.

Yet he risks losing much of the respect, if not all, he has from the grassroots if he persists in his tirades. He might be forgiven for what he did in the past days, accepting it as the natural conduct of a person who has been hurt, and hurt badly. But a prolongation of such behaviour will be tolerated less. And it would only serve to show that the PN has not healed.

Grech, too, would risk losing a lot if he does not make amends with Arrigo, who is loved by many in the party. Both need to work out their problems and see how to move forward.

A political party that is coming from years of internal strife cannot afford to continue to be perceived as being divided. The Labour Party has its merits for retaining Castille, and the foundation of this is the unity shown irrespective of who is the leader and in the face of all circumstances. But it must also be admitted that the Nationalist Party contributed to its own defeat through its intramural tribulations.

Leader Bernard Grech is right when he says that every time that the PN is weakened, the country becomes weaker too. Malta needs a strong Opposition, one that keeps the government in check, one that exposes the administration’s shortcomings, and one that prepares itself as an alternative government.

An Opposition that is fractured, one that wastes so much energy to sort out its internal matters, and one that is not seen as being ready to take over the reins of the country will not attract voters. We have already seen it happening in the last election, with a turnout of just 85 per cent, the lowest since Malta earned its Independence.

Those non-voters showed that they do not see either party as being the right choice. They did not want to support the Labour Party, mired in so many scandals, but neither did they see the PN as a valid replacement. So they stayed at home.

If the PN aims to bring those voters back into play, and not lose others, then it must first of all do without self-inflicted difficulties, and secondly it must focus on exposing all that is wrong in the Labour administration, while showing it deserves to be given a chance.

Otherwise, it looks set to lose the fourth general election in a row.

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