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Briguglio decapitates himself after internal criticism

The headless Green Party has just lost the man that gave it its best result ever, and a renewed drive for electoral reform

Staff Reporter
8 April 2013, 12:00am
Michael Briguglio.
Michael Briguglio.


Michael Briguglio provided Alternattiva Demokratika with a defined ideological direction that won the party its best result ever in the last elections. But he will not put his name forward for re-election as chairperson, after critics lined up with their long knives just weeks after garnering 1.8% of the national vote, the best result for AD since 1992.

Supporters of the 38-year-old sociologist, who became AD chairperson in 2008, say he has been unfairly targeted by activists - who form part of AD's executive committee, and from where its candidates hail - who resented the Greens' "focused, ideological line".

Carmel Cacopardo, formerly a president of the Nationalist Party's administrative council, deputy secretary-general and information up until 1997, has led the criticism that the Green party must 'centre' itself away from Briguglio's direction.

Notwithstanding the fact that under Briguglio, AD won 5,506 votes and set the stage for what should have been a renewed impetus on electoral reform, his critics have complained that his liberal politics backfired.

Yesterday the AD executive committee convened a meeting for a post-mortem of sorts, but they were probably racking their brains over who could replace the personable and telegenic Briguglio, who was the face of the Green Party all throughout an exhaustive two-month campaign.

"Expectations that AD would win a seat were running high, but in reality the numbers were never there. And yet again, it was AD's best result because Michael gave the party a clearly defined ideological direction, with crucial issues on which there was no negotiation," one of his supporters, who will remain anonymous, said.

With his 'you know where you stand with us' approach to politics, Briguglio gave TV viewers (he appeared in the bulk of programmes, taking all the TV time he could take) non-negotiable standpoints: AD was against the illegal squatting of public land at Armier, against spring hunting, in favour of gay marriage, sustainability of water resources, and non-discrimination of IVF.

Coupled with that, Briguglio also displayed an ability to take AD out of its 'marginal' green issues, jousting with Joseph Muscat and Lawrence Gonzi on pension reform and taking them to task on their opposition to raising minimum wage. This was normal 'green party fare' by European standards. And going on the result, it worked just as well in a political climate where the writing on the wall was that Labour would win by a landslide.

"Michael was on message throughout the campaign, telling voters to give AD their number one, allowing them the liberty to cross-vote, and to understand that voting 1 for AD could keep it in the electoral race long enough to win second preference votes from other parties," the AD source said.

When this newspaper spoke to AD's candidates in the counting hall, the mood was sombre: Cacopardo himself remarked that Briguglio's open invitation on live television telling voters to cross-vote, and his admission that he voted Labour in 2008, when relations with then-leader Harry Vassallo were at their lowest ebb, had been their undoing. Arnold Cassola, who in 2004 narrowly missed out on becoming Malta's sixth MEP, publicly said on television that he was disappointed with the showing even though the result had given the party a lifeline to campaign for electoral reform.

Briguglio himself may have taken a rash decision, another party member said, in deciding not to re-contest: "He should have stayed on to fight the antagonists. But he is a single parent, he has his own family life to see to, an academic career, and the past five years as AD chairperson saw him immerse himself fully in the party's work. The electoral campaign itself was exhausting. You kind of think, 'what the hell am I doing this for if the critics will hang you even when you do good?'"
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MaltaCross
Bring back HARRY VASSALLO ! That was the best front person for AD ever !
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Rachel Roberts
ADieu AD ADieu!
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justin spiteri
I hope AD will take the opportunity to re-consider their strategy. As the only alternative to a two-party system (unique in Europe by the way) being green is too narrow a scope. Be social-liberal or liberal-democratic (because, let's face it, only liberal minded will be pioneers and vote for a third party) but being "green" is just not going to cut it.
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Karl Cucciardi
Allelujah!
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Marcus Iwanik
What a shame for the AD to criticize the best leader and best chance they ever had to get close to Parliament. Michael Briguglio had the balls (excuse the expression)to challenge both Lawrence Gonzi and Joseph Muscat. Mr Briguglio told the people of Malta that he will deliver promises that the other two leaders were afraid to even bring out in the open. I think that Briguglio threatened the ideals that the other two leaders wanted but were afraid to commit in public. Michael Briguglio will make a fine minister and yes Dr Joseph Muscat should have found a place for him in his administration but like I said both leaders felt threatened by this man, like they are threatened by the presence of Franco Debono. The difference is that Mr Briguglio does not have the same ambitions and the same drive that Franco Debono has. Ultimately Franco got what he wanted, almost, but I don't think he is through yet. Any one of the two major political parties should take note and recruit Mr Biguglio in their party. He is a good man and he will make an excellent politician. It is the AD's loss because they will never get so close as having a seat in Parliament as this time around. PN take note..
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Anthony Pace
Jahasra what a pity!
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Anthony Pace
Jahasra what a pity!
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Jonathan Tabone
Notwithstanding the fact that AD got its best result ever we have to keep in mind that in this election they had everything in their favour. Disgruntlement with the PN was extremely high so I cannot understand how come they didn't manage to attract a larger share of the vote.
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Alphonse Grech
you must put 'AD's best result ever' in its proper contest. yes, they increased their share by some hundreds, but when you remember that this was an election that it was so evident that PN supporters won't vote for their own party, it was complete disaster for the greens. if they didn't managed to at least 10,000 votes this time around they will never achieve anything. so, it is time to shoot down all this false enthusiasm. it is time for AD to clean itself from all the 'green' elements and return back in being a democratic alternative to MLPN. we live in a political world where analyst are calling it a post-ideological era. the time of the left and right is over. AD can position itself as better as alternative once it gives away it's far-left ideological basis! nsomma...addio greens...you def won't be missed!
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Antonio Pace
Neither the policies nor the leadership were to blame for the fact that the Greens did not secure a parliamentary seat. This was an election unlike many others and many voters returned to their parties. If anything, and unlike some AD candidates, Briguglio did not seek to demonize the Labour Party. Some AD supporters and one candidate (not Briguglio) had more venom for Labour than for the Nationalists. The expectation of a parliamentary seat was unrealistic from the start.
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GODFREY FARRUGIA
Michael Briguglio's shortcoming during the AD's capaign was that, he being inherently leftist, found himself uncomfortable hitting at Labour in the hope of winning PN voters, especially in his Sliema district. It is a waste that such an intelligent and hardworking young politician should stop his political career in this manner. Michael, please change your mind and join the party where your heart beats.
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Rachel Roberts
ADieu AD!
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Angelico Baldacchino
Carmel Cacopardo only joined AD because he was ousted out of PN. The only reason why people like myself have believed in AD is because it was the only truly liberal voice in Malta and now we get these old opportunists who want the same of the rest. The best solution for AD is that someone like Mike Briguglio remains and new blood joins the group. Maybe it's time that even Arnold Cassola make space for new faces.
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Malcolm Mifsud
The truth is that AD were never a party but a group of socio-political concerned individuals who are politically concerned but who adhere to different political leanings or attitudes. As i said before if as he matures and learns how to tow a party line Briguglio would be a fine politician within the PL movement On the other hand the PN should recognise the political savviness of Cassola and find him a role in the new remodeled party, As for caccopardo he is the eternal dissident who sees the devil,s hand round every political corner and has a national role to play in ensuring that abuses and corruption are kept in check.
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Malcolm Mifsud
The truth is that AD were never a party but a group of socio-political concerned individuals who are politically concerned but who adhere to different political leanings or attitudes. As i said before if as he matures and learns how to tow a party line Briguglio would be a fine politician within the PL movement On the other hand the PN should recognise the political savviness of Cassola and find him a role in the new remodeled party, As for caccopardo he is the eternal dissident who sees the devil,s hand round every political corner and has a national role to play in ensuring that abuses and corruption are kept in check.
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roderick degiorgio
it's a pity to loose a bright,honest person like Briguglio.
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Joseph Borg
Alternattiva presented the electorate with all the shit of society !