The dodo of Maltese politics

Delia refuses to go but his days are numbered. It is a matter of time until he is abandoned even by those who tag along with him

Adrian Delia
Adrian Delia

These last days, the only words of consolation and support for the PN leader Adrian Delia were hardly audible or visible.  

The lonely figure of Censu l-Iswed, a colourful and uncouth character, together with a merry band of angry, loud and oversized men and women could hardly be described as the heart and soul of a party. Defiant until the very end, Adrian Delia has refused to bow down and leave. This kind of freak show is now the joke at every dinner table and family reunion and the only words of consolation are to be found in Labour circles who pray that he hangs on for the good of their own party! 

Citing the PN statute and insisting that he was elected by the members of the party, Delia has shown that he has no self-respect and wants to hang on whatever the cost. The unfortunate reality is that Delia has been shunned by a certain boisterous and entitled segment of the party from the very first day, and his image had by far been crystallised in the first few days of his leadership by his scathing portrayal of Daphne Caruana Galizia, who died in a car bomb hardly a month after his election.  

The old guard of the PN never accepted him and the media were never kind to him. His only ally, ironically, came from the PL media who described Delia’s opponents as the bad guys. Naturally, Delia’s embattled image suited Labour just fine. After all, it seemed both Delia and Labour had the same enemies. 

Since that day the Nationalist Party has spiralled dangerously and perilously close to a dangerous split that kills its electoral chances for the foreseeable future. At a time when any decent opposition party would be riding the wave in the wake of the Muscat downfall, the PN finds itself squabbling internally about everything but the political topic of the moment. 

Delia refuses to go but his days are numbered. It is a matter of time until he is abandoned even by those who tag along with him. Only those hotheads with PN tattoos like Censu l-Iswed will probably stand by him. 

But it looks more apparent that his reasons to stay on are simply egotistic, and he knows that he cannot muster any credible opposition to the supremacy of Labour. His only asset is his ability to keep a straight face in the midst of a political earthquake, and weaponise the party structures to their logical extreme, with all this party infighting serving him to prop him up as long as he remains PN leader. 

The answer to Adrian Delia so far has been Therese Comodini Cachia. As a human rights lawyer and crusader for good governance, she has upheld the Caruana Galizias’ battle for justice for their slain mother. Certainly, she will have to widen her horizons beyond the immediate audience that was overjoyed at her nomination. To win the hearts and minds of first the Nationalists and then floating voters, takes more than flying the flag of a select part of the PN. If she repeats the mistake of former PN leader Simon Busuttil by constructing her political strategy only on the expectations of media-literate, middle class aspirations… she is doomed to fail. 

She needs to do more than that. This country does not only have governance issues at stake and most of the electorate is simply unwilling to discard its ‘vote of allegiance’ over the singular issue of corruption. That is not me talking, but political electoral trends of the last forty years. The bread-and-butter mantra… well, it’s very real. 

So it will be a tall order for Comodini Cachia. Of course, when it comes to lashing out at the government over the latest corruption revelations there are few in her party who have the right credentials for the job. She might not be at first glance as eloquent as Adrian Delia, but those character traits did not seem to have got him very far. 

What is clear is that the Nationalist Party needs some stability and credibility. Adrian Delia cannot provide this. His best-before date expired last Wednesday. 

Today’s political scenario is difficult. If the Nationalist opposition fails to regroup and focus the prospect of having a very imperfect democracy governed by an omnipotent party is a reality not only a possibility. 

If President George Vella finds that Adrian Delia must go and that Comodini Cachia is the new leader of Opposition, this country needs to enter a period of democratic calibration. The country needs to have a serious appraisal of why we were landed with the biggest scandals to ever hit this country and why the guilty ones never got apprehended. 

It cannot be that we talk of corruption scandals but never get to see the people responsible for these actions. This might not be bread-and-butter, but it certainly is brass talks: police work, investigators, scary justice and deterrence coming together as an unstoppable force that flushes out the bad boys. Certainly enough, this can be something the PN can start dealing with, in language that does not alienate other voters. 

Yet beyond this, Therese Comodini Cachia must appreciate that on most other issues the electorate does not see a big difference between the two political parties. Neither party will change the dominating skyline of towering cranes across Malta and Gozo. And neither will our style of government, our ingrained nepotistic structures and our incestuous habit of serving our electorate as if they were the shareholders of a company. 

Not unless we introduce wide-ranging rules of accountability that curtail the liberties of our political class, of course. 

The Nationalist Party needs to start by eating some humble pie and admit it was, and is, part of this culture of business intertwined with politics. And that it also bent over backwards to make it happen for the big boys. How far is it ready to turn its back on this reality? 

This country needs vision, and this means that one needs to a dream for the future of this country. Sure, we need to change in nearly everything. But it would be a change that will benefit everyone – a change untainted by the ulterior motives of those who set out to enrich themselves in the crudest of ways.