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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

Squeezing the stuffiness out of the Nationalist Party

The stuffiness of the Nationalist Party on a number of social issues has driven thousands away from the PN

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
30 July 2014, 7:29am
People rallied for the PN when dialogue was the order of the day. When this mode of doing politics was substituted for government-intervention in people’s everyday lives, the PN alienated entire groups of people
People rallied for the PN when dialogue was the order of the day. When this mode of doing politics was substituted for government-intervention in people’s everyday lives, the PN alienated entire groups of people
If the Nationalist Party wants to win young voters, it needs to loosen up. Not an abandoning of principle, but the need for the party to examine its policies – not least on social issues.

Young people, who supported the PN in the run up to the EU referendum, have since switched off from the party, for a multitude of reasons. I doubt whether young people today claim a political party, it seems that young people are less interested in organised politics than they were a decade or so ago.

Secondly, the stuffiness of the Nationalist Party on a number of social issues has driven thousands of young people away from the PN. The party’s stand on divorce and the recent decision to abstain on the civil unions bill are a case in point. On the latter, the Nationalist Party trampled on the civil liberties of an entire group of people, and continued to alienate young voters. People, especially young people, want less government (read politicians) in their lives.

People rallied for the PN when dialogue and cultural engagement was the order of the day. When this mode of doing politics was substituted for government intervention in people’s everyday lives, the PN alienated entire groups of people, not least young voters.

Muscat’s Labour will go down that route too – the writing is on the wall, unless the Prime Minister stops his annoying, bullying the tactics: the unilateral decision to postpone the local council elections to 2019, after granting 16-year-olds the right to vote (they will now vote aged 21), is a case in point. 

Admittedly, the Nationalist Party’s stand on drug decriminalisation is a step in the right direction, and promises a fresh start from a party that, unfortunately, alienated young people due to its stuffiness.

Simon Busuttil and his leadership team need to squeeze, further, the stuffiness out of the PN. It will take time, and a lot of soul searching to do. But it has to be done if the PN wants to win young voters back. The clock is ticking, fast.

A CEO for the PN

According to media reports, the Nationalist Party is considering proposals to appoint a CEO. Currently it is the PN’s secretary general, Chris Said who, apart from his political role, doubles as CEO for media.link (the commercial arm of the Nationalist Party). Said, a doer, has successfully addressed the financial situation of the party and its subsidiary companies and, although making a profit might seem like a far-off dream, he managed to stop the massive bleeding.

The PN now needs a CEO to focus on making the commercial and media operations sustainable, while re-branding the PN’s media as part of the next phase of the party’s commercial restructuring.

Appointing a CEO would be of huge benefit not only for commercial restructuring purposes but, especially, for the PN because it would enable the PN’s secretary general to focus his time and energy on much needed changes within the PN and to help the party re-connect with the thousands of disgruntled PN voters who abandoned the party in droves.

Positive ‘provocations’

Prime Minister Muscat comes up with a provocation a day. Only this week, he insisted on not publishing important contracts on Enemalta; suggested the postponing of the local elections to 2019 without any consultation, and appointed Labour Party activist Wenzu Mintoff to the judiciary. It is a strategy in itself which enables him to grab the media’s attention, the opposition reacts and the Prime Minister plays the victim accusing the opposition of being destructive and negative in its approach.

These are short-lived games which Muscat will, eventually, come to regret. However, it would be equally short-sighted for opposition leader Simon Busuttil to think that this way of doing politics would tarnish the Prime Minister’s reputation and turn the wheels in 2018.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the opposition should stop criticising the government, vociferously if need be. If the Nationalist Party does not react to the Prime Minister’s provocations it fails in its duty as the government’s opposition, but it needs to think outside the box.

The PN needs to come up with positive ‘provocations’, which would enable it to set the country’s agenda and give the electorate a glimpse of the PN as an alternative government. Making amends with the gay community, reconnecting with the business community and reshuffling the shadow cabinet are only a few steps forward in that direction.

Paying lip service

In Parliament this week Chris Said argued that the government should have the courage to provide for State funding, more so because successive Labour governments had stolen a good number of properties and were using them as village clubs.

According to Said, Labour held 22 government properties under rental contracts. A property in Naxxar, which houses the Labour Party’s village club, cost it three cents a day paid to the State. If Muscat wants to lead by example he should have the decency to return these properties to their rightful owners and pay compensation.

Of course, he will not. While paying ample lip service about the need of a level playing field between all political parties, the government’s emphatic ‘no’ to State financing exposes Labour’s real intentions – never to return the property to its rightful owners, and never, ever, to pay compensation.

Don’t touch my vote

The Prime Minister cites political fatigue and cost-cutting as the two main reasons for postponing all local elections to 2019. According to Muscat postponing the council elections to 2019 would improve turnout in local elections.

Silly excuses, if you ask me. Political fatigue won’t stop people from voting. If Muscat wants to save on the financial costs he should cut down on the size of his cabinet, and the atrocious perks paid to his special envoys (read Mrs Konrad Mizzi) and the government ‘advisers’.

Muscat’s unilateral decision to postpone the elections has prompted a sharp rebuke from Simon Busuttil who appealed to the government to respect the basic rules of modern democracy. These are all bullying tactics by the Prime Minister, and it is pretty obvious that he can’t afford (politically, not financially) another election before the 2018 general elections. Neither can he afford to jeopardise the promises he made to the hunters before the last general elections.

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...
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