So in the end, the ‘glorious PN’ destroys itself… over an online poll

Gozo candidate Alex Borg even went as far as to demand that the PN ‘dissociate itself’ from CSN… AND Repubblika… AND ‘other NGOs’… thereby automatically firing the starter pistol for the Nationalist equivalent of ‘World War Z’

My, oh my: talk about a week being ‘a long time in politics’…

Because unless I am much mistaken, it was roughly this time last week – though it feels like a lot longer ago – that the first serious cracks started appearing on the façade of Labour’s ‘sleek and sophisticated’ electoral machine. 

Or so it seemed, at the time. For having already been wrongfooted by the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder inquiry report, not to mention the FATF greylisting, which was (and still is) arguably much more consequential for Abela’s government, that ‘Ġaħan’ comment, by Edward Zammit Lewis, seemed to suddenly provoke vague rumblings of discontent within the Labour Party’s own voter-base, too.

And not just because a senior PL Cabinet Minister had so unwisely dismissed his own party’s supporters as a bunch of ‘village idiots’. Many Labour voters were also visibly uncomfortable at the reminder that – after decades of being taught to hate the Nationalists, precisely for their ‘cosy ties’ with business interests (Alfred Sant’s ‘Big Bosses’, remember?) – well, their own party was not so very different, after all. 

And nor, for that matter, were the ‘business interests’ that it was suddenly so keen on sucking up to.

It must also be said that – probably for the first time since around 2008 – the Labour Party’s propaganda team completely mishandled the ensuing situation, too. That billboard exchange, for instance: childish and puerile though it undeniably was… I still call it ‘first blood’ for the Nationalists, in the forthcoming electoral campaign.  

In fact, I never quite grasped the point Labour was even trying to make, with that ‘Grazzi, Yorgen’ reply. Who cares, if Jason Azzopardi was guilty of something similar in the not-too-distant past? It doesn’t address the core complaint that was being so openly expressed by disillusioned Labourites, at the time.

Actually, it sort of does the opposite. It more or less rubs their noses in the fact that… for all the difference ‘voting Labour’ actually made, on this particular front: they may as well have just stuck with the old Nationalist administration, and got on with it…

So make no mistake: around this time last week, things were not looking quite so blissful and serene, in Robert Abela’s ‘Paradise of Smiles’.  And granted: there was no outright earthquake, of anywhere near enough magnitude to actually shift the electoral landscape itself…

But as I recall, that is roughly how things had first started going downhill for the PN, too: back in 2008, under circumstances that are none-too dissimilar from today’s (like Abela, Gonzi had taken over from a much more popular predecessor… and in different ways, he also had to face the same old ‘continuity/renewal’ conundrum…)

Then again, however: the impression didn’t exactly last very long, did it? Fast forward a grand total of one week, and… um… no one’s talking about Edward Zammit Lewis’s ‘Ġaħan’ gaffe anymore. No one is criticizing, defending, or even mentioning those billboards at all. Heck, no one’s even talking about the FATF greylisting, either (or Moody’s ‘negative outlook’, for that matter… you know: the other thing that ‘dampened Abela’s mood’ this week…).

Oh, no. A whole new front has suddenly opened up, in the interminable ‘Nationalist Party Civil War’… and, well, that’s it. Everything else immediately goes flying out of the window: and an old familiar theme song starts playing in the background.

 “It’s time to play the music; it’s time to light the lights; it’s time to get things started, on the Muppet Show tonight…”

I mean: honestly, though. How do these things even happen, anyway? Did I blink, and miss something important that occurred some time over the last seven days? Because it looks to me as though this entire latest ruckus – which has already gotten so far out of hand, that it now threatens to literally smash the PN into two, unequal halves – began with nothing more ‘consequential’, or ‘important’, than… an online poll by Civil Society Network.

Yes, folks, you read right. An online poll – that is to say, an entirely pointless exercise, even at the best of times – organized by a ‘Non-Governmental Organisation’ which, quite frankly, doesn’t even exist at all. (Unless, of course, the definition of ‘NGO’ has been altered, while I wasn’t looking, to: ‘some random guy, sitting at his computer at home, with way, way too much free time on his hands.’)

But in any case: there you have it. The ‘once-glorious’ Nationalist party is yet again – for the umpteenth time – ripping itself to shreds, over something as eminently banal, and idiotic, as… well, what I just said. An online poll… which, in this case, asked a question that doesn’t even make any sense to start with.

Let’s look at it again, shall we? The exact question was: “Should a new political party replace the faltering PN as Malta’s main Opposition?”

And… erm… do I even to need to continue? ‘New political party’? What ‘new political party’ are we talking about here, exactly?

Because there are already a couple of new parties out there, you know. There’s Volt, for instance – which shares some, but not all, of the old PN’s ‘core principles and values’; and there’s also The Moviment Patrijotti Maltin (and by the time the next election rolls along, I imagine there will be at least two other anti-immigration, proto-fascist parties to choose from…)

And besides: if Civil Society Network can pass itself of an ‘NGO’… then someone like Zaren Tal-Ajkla would probably be fancying his own chances, too. (Now that I think about it, it might not even be such a bad idea after all. I rather like the idea of Zaren as Opposition leader, myself. Don’t you?) 

But in any case, the problem remains the same: would any of those ‘new parties’ do, as possible replacements for the PN as ‘Malta’s main Opposition’? Or does it have to be a ‘new party’ representing some kind of ideology, or vision, that a majority of people in this country (or, at the very least, former Nationalist voters) might actually identify with, and vote for…?

Reason I ask is that: while there is no such thing, in Malta right now, as a political party that actually fits the above description: there is such a thing as a Constitutional definition for ‘Malta’s main opposition party’. (And I can assure you: it isn’t ‘being the lucky winner of an online lottery, organized by some random dude on a sofa’.) 

To put it as succinctly as possible, any ‘new political party’ seeking to ‘replace the faltering PN as Malta’s main Opposition’ would have to:

a) exist (Duh!);

b) contest an election;

c) get elected to Parliament; and;

d) end up becoming the “one opposition party whose numerical strength in the House of Representatives is greater than the strength of any other opposition party” - Constitution of Malta, Article 90, Subsection 2(a).

There. THAT – and in no other way – is how you really go about becoming ‘Malta’s main Opposition party’. And unless any of those conditions are already in place: the question in that poll may as well have been: “Should our current Prime Minister be replaced by a unicorn, a dragon, or a sugar-plum fairy? (Call now on 0800-GAHAN to win fabulous prizes, etc.)”

And I really mean it, too. The answers, in both cases, would be equally inconsequential…

Except that... um… in the case of the CSN poll, there have already been ‘consequences’ of a very different kind. 

Incredible as this may sound – because it really is the stuff of Muppets, you know – some people within the PN actually mistook all the above (i.e., an entirely meaningless, worthless exercise in pure political fantasy) for some kind of ‘genuine political threat’. 

Gozo candidate Alex Borg even went as far as to demand that the PN ‘dissociate itself’ from CSN… AND Repubblika… AND ‘other NGOs’… thereby automatically (and no doubt, intentionally) firing the starter pistol for the Nationalist equivalent of ‘World War Z’.

And of course – because they can’t allow themselves to be outdone in the drama department, can they now? – Repubblika went ahead and swallowed the bait, hook line and sinker: even calling Alex Borg’s outburst a ‘fascist attack’ (!), and demanding an ‘apology’ that it obviously knows will never be forthcoming…

… and I can almost stop there, because – without even ‘taking sides’ in this unsightly fracas - you can already see, at a glance, that both those reactions are clear-cut cases of ‘lines drawn in the sand’. 

They are both demands that can only ever be either met, in their totality; or rejected, in their totality. In other words, a hopelessly unbridgeable divide… a circle that cannot possibly be squared… and as such, there can no longer be any realistic talk of ‘compromise’ (still less, ‘reconciliation’).

In a classic Spaghetti western, this would be the moment when the two rival duelists slowly approach each other at high noon, as the rest of the town watches nervously through shuttered windows, and vultures slowly circle overhead. That tense, awkward moment – which goes down so very well with an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, and maybe a bucket of popcorn – between the moment when the shoot-out becomes inevitable… and the actual shooting begins.

And, well… small wonder the entire country would just drop everything, and tune in so eagerly to the latest episode of ‘the longest drawn-out political suicide in Maltese history’. Especially now, when matters have finally (and so dramatically) been brought to a head…

… by nothing more than a perfectly useless, totally meaningless, and utterly illogical ‘online poll’. Go figure…