Grech’s divided Opposition: a tale of failed leadership | Ramona Attard

Bernard Grech clearly cannot offer a solution to the PN woes as his leadership was supported by one of these factions contributing to the fragmentation of the party | Ramona Attard

Opposition leader Bernard Grech
Opposition leader Bernard Grech

Summer 2021, a year on, a new Opposition leader, the third in four years for the PN, and the infighting within the Opposition is as rife as ever.

A divided party cannot go on to lead a country, especially in such challenging times. And we have an experience of what this means. Nine years ago, when the PN was the party in Government, Malta was facing serious and significant economic challenges. An economy on the brink with sluggish growth as credit ratings painted a bleaker forecast, year on year.

Back then, the Lawrence Gonzi administration was not only clueless on how to manage a country in the midst of an economic crisis, but also an unstable government, divided and stumbling along from one parliamentary vote to another. Political instability and a divided party that was unable to focus on the challenges the country was facing. The economic stagnation added to the government’s instability and threatened jobs as major projects stalled. It was indeed the worst time for business.

Fast forward nine years, and the PN is still dogged with the same division and infighting that characterised the party, now in Opposition. Once again, the PN is more focused on keeping the house together rather than proposing a vision for the country. Meanwhile, the Partit Laburista and Robert Abela keep pushing forward the agenda for change and growth.

Imagine for a minute that the PN was in government as the pandemic wreaked havoc globally. Instead of focusing on the country’s needs at an important juncture, the PN staged a coup on its party leader, Adrian Delia. They spent months campaigning in a useless exercise to change the party leader while the Government and Robert Abela were facing the greatest crisis in generations.

The only reason for that leadership election was to unite the party behind a leader. A year later, with Bernard Grech as the new PN leader, and the Opposition is a divided as ever. Which shows that when it mattered most, instead of an opposition doing its part for people during the pandemic, the party went into an internal election to try and bring unity within the party. We can now clearly see that those efforts were futile as Grech is still struggling to get a hold on the various factions within his party.

This clearly, is a sign of a party that has learned nothing from the past and the message which the Maltese people’s resoundingly sent, election after election since 2009. It’s abundantly clear that the Nationalist Party is as disintegrated as a party can possibly get.

Bernard Grech has clearly failed to unite the PN, and the past days have been a demonstration of this. Bernard Grech clearly cannot offer a solution to the PN woes as his leadership was supported by one of these factions contributing to the fragmentation of the party. One might argue that what happens in the Nationalist Party is solely of interest to the party itself, and its followers. However, the reality is that people ask a very direct question. Can a divided party lead a government at a time when the economy worldwide is so fragile?

Just like the rest of the world, our country was hit by the various and numerous effects of the global pandemic. Yet despite this, the government managed the situation with a strong, stable and systematic leadership. This is not to say that government has not had its challenges and took a number of decisions that could have been seen as rushed. But the government had the right priorities in place. Not only did Robert Abela’s leadership manage to protect lives and livelihoods, but also exceeded expectations as we are now reaching the lowest unemployment numbers ever. All this, while rolling out a vaccination programme that is being hailed the best across the globe. All throughout this, government pushed forward a reform programme that has been solid and consistent. In the governance sector, we have enacted unprecedented laws and we have also implemented necessary social reforms such as the reform of the pre-1995 rent laws.

We managed all this because, as a government, we have been working together and united towards a common goal. It is this spirit of cooperation and synergy that keeps seeing Malta moving forward, achieving social justice, promoting equality, and adopting a post-COVID strategy that will take Malta to the next level.

Since becoming leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister less than two years ago, Robert Abela has had to constantly face tests and challenges which he overcame with confidence and resilience. On the other hand, Bernard Grech has already failed his main, possibly his only test: that of uniting his own party.

A divided party in government will simply harm the country.

The PN will now try to put some make-up on, even undergo some cosmetic changes to try and show a less fragile Opposition, but make no mistake, the cracks will continue to emerge. Until then, the people will keep looking at both parties and make a very conscious decision based on one single question: Who do you trust leading our economy, our social safety net and improving our quality of life?

And the reply is a ringing endorsement to Robert Abela’s united party in government as opposed to Bernard Grech’s failed leadership.

Ramona Attard is president of Partit Laburista