The Malta Independent 13 June 2024, Thursday
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Tandem politics

Noel Grima Sunday, 19 May 2024, 06:47 Last update: about 26 days ago

It’s the marching season again and that of political mass gatherings after a hiatus of some months from the time of the last general election.

But still, it is rather strange to have two mass protests in the same week and having the same focus.

Some commentators spoke of two Nationalist parties – let’s say PN 1 on Monday with the official party leaders and the ‘normal’ PN supporters; and PN 2 on Thursday in a protest organised by some NGOs against the Robert Abela administration in the light of what’s emerging from the inquiry on the fraudulent sale of the three hospitals.

Some reports spoke of some PN figures, not top level, except for the two MEPs, present on Thursday.

But others pointed out that the Thursday protest was not carried by Net, as against Monday’s.

So is it true there are two clone PN parties, distinct from each other and operating at arms’ distance from each other?

I think we need to move on from bar-room gossip and internet speculation, from simplistic conclusions and facile comparisons.

I have no inside knowledge about what is happening in these two groupings except what we can all see with our eyes.

But there are historical points of comparison which must be considered.  In many instances in the past it was only when the PN got outside help that it managed to defeat the more monolithic Labour Party.

This happened, for instance, before Independence when PN got the outside help of the three small parties and beat Dom Mintoff.

And likewise in the years before EU accession the PN surrounded itself with all those who were in favour of EU membership even if they were not PN supporters.

In both cases, Labour presented a united, monolithic front which was not enough to get it majority support.

That is, more or less, the basic structure of the Maltese political landscape – Labour is a big, monolithic force whereas PN is weaker and easily split.

One can see this in television viewership.  One TV has more viewers but then there are all the other stations, including the foreign ones.

On the other side, Labour won when Joseph Muscat created what he called the ‘Moviment’, that is wider than the traditional party.

But the monolithic pull was still too strong and nowadays no one mentions the Moviment anymore.

Abela is fighting the EP election in the monolithic mode.

Rather, his problem seems to be that large sections of the party, for one reason or another, seem determined to abstain.

So in case this week’s strategy was deliberate, this could have been the right one.

In that case we must learn to interpret better the findings of the many opinion polls we’re getting.

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