Independent: Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.
The pseudo-coalition is the logical conclusion of GonziPN.
Surely the PN was always in itself a coalition of conflicting ideologies, interests and social groups. But under Eddie Fenech Adami these conflicts were addressed within strong party structures under the watch of a very strong leader.
Surely, Fenech Adami's task was made easier by the overriding issues of his time: democracy in the 1980s and Europe in the 2000s, which gave the party an overriding rallying cry that overshadowed all other differences.
GonziPN signalled a historical break: a new system of government and party leadership epitomised by the GonziPN motif. It was an electoral campaign geared towards a presidential style of government, which ignored the fact that Malta remains a parliamentary democracy.
The fact that Gonzi won against all odds, albeit with a wafer-thin, relative majority, gave him the false impression that he could translate an electoral slogan into a system of government. This was made easier by the departure of senior cabinet members like Louis Galea and John Dalli that could rival his influence in the party.
Not surprisingly, Gonzi himself has never hidden his preference for such a system that could also allow him to appoint technocrats as ministers to certify a system where ministers are accountable directly to him.
Ultimately this led to an effective coalition between Gonzi and his allies with an increasingly troublesome backbench. Since trust and loyalty were the only binding factors, whenever this trust was undermined the government experienced a crisis.
Moreover, for the first three years the party was relegated to the background. It was only brought back to life to deal with Gonzi's constant problems in the past two years. Instead of a presidential system giving the country a strong leadership, the unhappy mix of a parliamentary system and a presidential style of government degenerated into eternal squabbling between a weak leader and an individual.
This is definitely not a coalition in the continental way of doing politics, where parties converge around a common programme. That is why Germany has a very stable coalition system where governments always last a whole term.
What we have now is more of a loose arrangement or pact between two individuals. The only convergence between the two is Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando's unwillingness to bring the government down and Lawrence Gonzi's determination to hold on to his mandate right to the very end. What we have now is a coalition with an individual who is accountable to no one but to himself.
In contrast smaller coalition partners in other countries are accountable to their electorates. If they bring governments down capriciously they face electoral wipe-out. Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando does not even have to face an election next time round. The government is literally at his mercy.
Still, as long as Gonzi has the numbers in parliament his government remains legitimate. But the new reality that the PN no longer commands a majority in parliament cannot be ignored. In light of the new circumstance Gonzi should advise the Speaker to recall parliament and present a motion calling for a vote of confidence in his government. If the government has the numbers it has the full legitimacy to continue with its mandate, irrespective of whether it is a coalition or not.
On the other side of the political Rubicon, it seems that the latest coalition arrangement has foiled the Opposition's attempt to accelerate the fall of the current government.
My understanding is that Muscat wanted an early election to ensure a strong parliamentary majority and avoid the fate of GonziPN. For even Muscat himself has adopted the same presidential style of leadership based on the feudal loyalty of candidates towards the leader, bypassing his own party by creating a parallel movement of moderates and progressives which lacks structures and democratic checks and balances.
Ironically what the country seems to be lacking at the moment are strong parties in parliament with clear identities, which can handle proper internal debate, and which do not stretch themselves beyond their natural ideological limits.
Ultimately the two-party system can no longer contain within it all the contradictory ideas in the world. Instead of enacting an electoral reform which would result in real coalition governments, we have ended up living with the worse aspect of coalition government: that of individuals with the power to withhold the proverbial key to government.