The Malta Independent 29 September 2022, Thursday
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TMID Editorial: The PN and its struggle for identity

Wednesday, 17 August 2022, 11:42 Last update: about 2 months ago

It is news to precisely nobody that the Nationalist Party is in the midst of a struggle. 

Electoral losses by historic margins, internal divisions, financial trouble, and supporters and members departing the party in their droves are all issues which have, and which continue to, plague the party.

These have been written about at length countless times, but a core issue which the PN is facing is sometimes forgotten about – something easy to do considering all the noise that any of the above issues creates.

That’s because this is a less concrete issue, and a more philosophical one: we are discussing the PN’s struggle for identity.

Historically, the party’s motto – religio et patria (religion and fatherland) – carried weight wherever it went. It was adept to Malta’s society back in the day, and many felt that they could resonate with it. Likewise, they felt that they could resonate with the causes which the PN tied its fortunes to.

In the 1980s, the party leader Eddie Fenech Adami made the party’s opposition to Dom Mintoff’s reign and the violence and challenges to democracy that it brought with it one of its core values.  In the years to follow, the party made joining the European Union one of its main aims and, thereby, again one of its core values.

However today, the party’s motto no longer resonates: the relevance of religion in Maltese society has waned significantly, while speaking of something as granted as the fatherland does not hold any water in a society which has become more concerned about the individual.

Likewise, with Malta now firmly within the EU, the PN does not appear to have any tangible aim to tie its fortunes to.  The party tried to do that when it based its pre-2017 electoral message on being an anti-corruption party, but that only brought about another spectacular electoral failure.

This issue was put to the party’s new deputy leader Alex Perici Calascione in an interview with The Malta Independent on Sunday last week.

“Maybe there is no single, large, identifiable achievement, but that really is not only a matter for the party to think about, but also the country," Perici Calascione replied.

"The centre of the PN's policy has always been, and should always continue to be, the overall development of the individual," he added.

He said that the party has always centred its policies on the well-being of the individual, “which then, multiplied with everyone, gives you the well-being of the country. We need to continue doing that. We need to strengthen the process whereby we better understand how much the Maltese society has changed. It has changed a lot over a short span of a few years”.

While it is commendable that the party wants to put the individual as the centre of its policy, what Perici Calascione is saying is still too vague to actually take as a definition of what the party’s identity is.

The evidence at the moment is that there is a certain incongruence in what even those who form part of the party think it should stand for.

The PN’s latest debacle over the IVF Bill, where three (a number which would have been four had Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici not had Covid-19 at the time) MPs went against party line and voted against the bill, is one such example.  The party’s miserable attempt at coming up with a policy on cannabis legalisation is another example.

It seems that some of those within the PN are attempting to move away from the party’s known conservative stances on a number of issues, but that others within the same party are not as willing to do that.

Party officials like Perici Calascione can say that the party’s values are indeed based upon the individual but, even if they do say it genuinely as was the case with the PN deputy leader, before the party as a whole figures out what exactly it stands for and what its ideology is, then inroads will be few and far between.

 

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