The Malta Independent 2 December 2023, Saturday
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Open political debate

Alfred Sant MEP Thursday, 24 November 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 2 years ago

A political custom that has been lost over the years was that of open  debates held internally by the political parties. I remember how in the past – but this goes back almost to before I became truly active in political affairs – it was common practice for instance to have party committees publish and present motions for discussion at district and general conferences. These would carry proposals for new initiatives as well as amendments to current policies.


There wouuld be speakers for and against. Sometimes a majority would adopt an approach that contradicted what the party leadership wanted. This would happen within both the major parties and it was considered natural that at such a stage, some internal divergences would occur.

Today, such debates – when and if they still happen – take place in camera and in fact will not  be open to all delegates or members of the party. The latter get presented with final documents on which they are expected to vote yes. Gradually, the parties’ political meetings have become dominated by the techniques of public relations.

Is this a positive or a negative development? Difficult to say.



I am puzzled by how the argument against the legalisation of abortion is frequently anchored on a religious basis that gives one to understand it is being expressed in terms of absolute principles. Which I understand to mean principles that have always been applicable and will always remain so, as they exist by virtue of a divine prohibition.

But even from the perspective thus adopted, such an approach is incorrect. St Thomas of Aquinas, recognised as a doctor of Catholic teachings had the following position with regard to abortion: Up to a pregnancy of six months, the act of abortion could at most be considered as a venial sin, since during this period, the soul would not yet have been constituted in the body. As of now, I have still not heard a plausible explantion of how the view registered by St Thomas is coherent with the absolute arguments against abortion that come packaged in religious dogma.



When a political party gives the impression that it is split, no matter how small the fissure is, it starts carrying a drawback that is electorally dangerous. To be sure, I know this from personal experience.

Which is why I cannot understand why week in week out, trusted exponents of the Nationalist Party, or spokespersons who used to be trusted, go on making statements that confirm the disagreements between them or with those who happen to be in the leadership. I understand that as they do so, they recognize what the consequences of their behaviour will be. Not only are they contributing to increase a lack of confidence within the top party echelons, but doing so too among the most committed party activists. Let alone among the electorate as a whole.

The political damage being done does not only wound the leadership actually in office, but the same people who deliver the statements that give rise to it. This problem has been trailing for so long in the PN that one must suspect the party of having been overtaken by a collective wish to commit suicide.



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