The Malta Independent 15 June 2024, Saturday
View E-Paper

We could have seen a PN making deeper inroads today

Mark Said Thursday, 23 May 2024, 07:09 Last update: about 23 days ago

One presumes that the electorate’s conviction prior to casting its vote is normally based on a political party’s leader's track record, facts and credibility. Whenever any new leader of either of our two main parties comes onto the scene, one is completely taken over by an element of excitement, promising some new brand and creative form of politics promoted by a visionary statesman.

It was that kind of feeling when Eddie Fenech Adami took over the reins of the PN from George Borg Olivier. In trying to oust Mintoff from several years of running our country, Eddie steered the PN to embark on a new mission statement with a projected vision that was radically different from the ultra-conservative ideology embraced by the Borg Olivier administration. It was a welcome breath of fresh air in Maltese politics and promised a new era of interesting and healthy political rivalry in Malta.

Until, that is, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici came onto the scene as planned by Mintoff. Once more, however, many were deceived into believing that politics were going to get even more interesting and healthy with this new leader of the Labour Party, seriously challenging and confronting the PN quarters with a new ideology and a set of social and economic reforms to continue building on the social and economic revolutionary and radical reforms undertaken by Mintoff. Yet, they were bitterly disappointed.

Unfortunately, it was a time when Malta went through some turbulent periods that ultimately paved the way for an electoral victory for Fenech Adami. Yes, we then had a number of years when the PN provided some positive and tranquil reforms. But with time, it somehow appeared to be running out of steam, more so when a new leader was surprisingly voted in to take over the reins of the Labour Party and make it electable again.

It was a time then when politics were made as they should, in an intelligent, non-belligerent and democratic manner. It was Alfred Sant’s turn. In no time at all, he managed to turn around the Labour Party’s fate by transforming it into a forward-looking party with an ideology and mission statement to make it electable again, culminating in the building of a new state-of-the-art Labour headquarters. The winds of change could be felt, and there was a promise that politics would cease to be boring in this small island state. It is a pity, though, that Alfred Sant’s time did not last long, even though he managed to defy all odds and beat Fenech Adami to Castille. Internal bickering and squabbles on non-major issues spelled the early and untimely downfall of Alfred Sant, only to be succeeded soon after by Joseph Muscat, who went on to earn the notorious title of the most corrupt politician in the world.

I draw a number of parallels between the post-Mintoff era of the then Labour Party and the post-Fenech Adami era of the PN, but with different and strikingly opposite outcomes. Whereas Labour lost no time in picking up the pieces to reunite and transform itself into a formidable political force to be reckoned with, the PN, on the other hand, with Eddie out of the limelight now, started its decline into political hibernation, struggling to find a successor to match or improve on Eddie’s achievements, but in vain. Gonzi might have initially promised to be such a successor, but internal bickering and rival factions had the upper hand, such that GonziPN began fading into insignificance, selling past their date policies and mired in a growing corruption atmosphere and archaic ideology.

Then followed Simon Busuttil, who in no time at all came up a cropper. The PN was now in the doldrums and had reached rock bottom.

It was at this stage that, out of nowhere and to everyone’s surprise, Adrian Delia took stock of the PN’s dire situation and endeavoured to give it a new meaning by breaking away from its bankrupt past and making it once more a match for Labour. He was chosen in a democratic manner and initially showed that he could be the proverbial new broom sweeping clean. It could have been a timely move since it is important for our democracy and constitutional precepts to have a functioning, strong opposition.

Many had seen, and possibly still see, in Adrian Delia, in spite of allegations of certain past illicit activities of his that, however, to date, have never been proven, the right person to lead the PN to new heights and make it a worthy counterpart to Labour. But it was never to be, as the PN’s old guard made sure that he was not given the chance and stealthily manoeuvred to oust him from their midst.

That move continued hammering the last nail into the PN’s coffin. Labour diehards might have rejoiced at the PN’s practical political demise, but that did not augur well for our constitutional democracy. With Adrian Delia at the helm, the PN could have given a good run to Labour and made Maltese politics very interesting to follow once more.

Today, the situation is such that trust in Robert Abela remains comfortably higher than that in opposition leader Bernard Grech among all voter groups, except for PN voters. The latter clearly prefer Adrian Delia over Bernard Grech as PN leader, with close to a 3% difference. This makes for sobering reading for opposition leader Bernard Grech, who has failed to make any significant gains in his own trust rating, despite his party’s improved performance.

All in all, the probability is that had Delia been allowed to remain at the PN’s helm, today we could have seen a PN making even deeper inroads at a faster rate.

 

Dr Mark Said is a lawyer

 

  • don't miss