Marlene’s party

Marlene Farrugia is vocal and eloquent, but those who can see through her know that behind her political ambitions lie an inflated ego and anger for the Labour party and party leader Joseph Muscat

Marlene Farrugia has targeted two main themes: clean politics and the environment
Marlene Farrugia has targeted two main themes: clean politics and the environment

Last Friday, the former Nationalist candidate and Labour MP Marlene Farrugia finally launched her own political party after a few hiccups and dissent. Unlike Alternattiva in 1989, there were no big names, just one well-known personality. Here is a person who has obviously now lost her Labour electoral base, just like Wenzu Mintoff and Toni Abela lost theirs in 1989. Mintoff was then the Labour whip and MP and Abela the PL president. They had left because of their distaste for how Labour had not reformed.

She is vocal and eloquent, but those who can see through her know that behind her political ambitions lie an inflated ego and anger for the Labour party and party leader Joseph Muscat. She has also basically rendered her partner, PL whip Godfrey Farrugia, unelectable… at least on the PL ticket.

True, she has good reason to be angry. But if she had been appointed Minister in 2013 instead of Godfrey, and her partner not demoted from health minister to whip by Muscat, she may not have been in her Qrendi home on Friday welcoming the first new faces to her party. She probably would still be toeing the party line and hitting out at the PN for anything under the sun.

Many people want a third party. I did, and spent a good chunk of my seemingly adult life with the greens. Well before the Briguglios and Cacopardos of today. It was sad to see Michael Briguglio depart simply because of his differences with Carmel Cacopardo after such a good result in 2013, and sadder to see that today the greens have simply not been able to get off the ground.  

Farrugia has targeted two main themes: clean politics and the environment. They are two topics which are noble, but they will not bring out regiments of voters rushing to her side.

And on many other issues, Marlene Farrugia is far more conservative than her adversaries. In parliament in the past, together with Marie Louise Coleiro, she was one of the few on the PL side who spoke out against divorce, even though she herself had separated from her husband, former Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, which made her not the appropriate ambassador to talk about the indissolubility of marriage. On the morning-after pill she also had a retrograde position and I would imagine that on other liberal issues she will apply her conservative zeal.

Her greatest talent, like that of Franco Debono and ironically of Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, is transforming a weakness and misdemeanour in her opponents and building an argument to turn it into a political tsunami.

Her political campaigning is no different from those of other village candidates, she dispenses sponsorships for local band clubs or football teams and uses her clinic as a focal point for her electorate, offering some discounted dental advice. To sponsor her campaign she does not only depend on her dental earnings but more importantly on her property renovations and buying and selling. And she has made some very lucrative dealings which position her in the category of speculator of high-end traditional properties.

Good for her.

But this is not the third party politics that we really need in Malta.

She has also stupidly stated a priori that she will be looking at aligning ‘Herself’ or ‘Her Party’ to the Nationalist party. As if the PN were some kind of virginal exemplary political formation that should stand out as the natural alternative to any government.

Marlene Farrugia’s party would have to tackle the nepotism in our politics, but it will be very difficult for her. She and her partner, Godfrey Farrugia, who happens to be the whip of the Labour party, operate in a structure which is not all that different from that of the other parties.

They are visible in their village, whether Qrendi or Zebbug, for being or having been patrons or semi-patrons of the village band clubs, associating themselves with the extravaganza of fireworks in their village and being good listeners to the unjustified petty concerns of their constituents. When the going gets tough, like all good politicians, they retreat to their comfort zone on the front in Sliema or in Sicily. They are like all other politicians, having the us and them attitude.

And in this scenario, Marlene Farrugia’s political future is close to being doomed.  She cannot offer what the other parties offer: which is patronage. Unless she does what she wants to do under the embrace of an established party such as the PN. When she was with the PL, the only reason she registered support in her constituency was because people who voted for her wanted her to return the favour.

Which is why many of those who gathered to be counted as the first activists of her party will soon realise that they are now actors in a mini-version and replica of the other political parties.

They will speak the same language as all those parties who sit on the fence in the opposition and they will promise the world and pontificate that they can do things differently and of course better. I know, I have been there.

Many people chastise the appearance or existence of radical leaders in European democracies who have an ideology, but at least these leaders have clear ideas which nudge the other mainstream parties to act faster and implement policies they do not believe in.

What is so ideological or radical about Marlene?

When they finally get elected to power (if they do) they too become mainstream. And I guess the best example of this was Alexis Tsipras, the 185th and current Prime Minister of Greece, and leader of the left-wing party Syriza, since 4 October, 2009. He too had to make compromises, but he had radical ideas and proposals, just like Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.  

Marlene Farrugia is not super honest, a radical or an ideologue, she is just another politician who cannot stand Muscat and the Labour party. Which is okay I guess. In fact when she talks of the Labour party she says she wanted, I really ask myself if she really ever believed that crap of Malta Taghna Lkoll.

There is nothing great about either the PL or the PN. 

Most people who opted to vote for the PN in 2003, and were not Nationalist, did so because they wanted Europe or could not stand Sant’s silly arguments about the Union. And most of the people who voted for the PL in 2013, did so because they wanted Gonzi out. 

It is as simple as that.

The truth is that most people who want Muscat out will vote for the PN – because they understand the electoral system – not for Marlene or the Greens. And then there are those who will argue that Muscat may be a sinner but they are not quite convinced that he should go for the time being.

So that is my unfair and subjective analysis of the Marlene party. Having said this, she is a breath of fresh air in today’s political circus. She has kept the spirit of her former spouse alive. Before 2013 the political atmosphere was alive and kicking with the dissident outbursts of Pullicino Orlando. His arguments were solid and sound, his motivations entirely questionable.  


Noting all the insinuations about the Panama papers and the role of directors in fiduciary companies, I can only say that if this newspaper repeated what for example Norman Vella said about Konrad Mizzi, we would be faced with a set of court actions for slander.

Norman Vella hit back on Friday and said that two to three days before Mizzi opened his Panama account he signed the privatisation agreements with the two companies taking over the three hospitals in Malta.

The next day, the Nazzjon had its front page with the Vella declaration. The insinuation is clear: Mizzi opened the Panama account to receive monies or kickbacks as a thank you for signing the agreement.

Vella of course has no proof this, he cannot just speculate if he has no facts. TVM is not a drinks party at someone’s home.

If in our Beppe Fenech Adami story we had written that Fenech Adami was aware that a fiduciary company where he was director oversaw monies from drug trafficking, we would have been wrong. We have no proof to say this.

If we said that he intervened with the police not to see the investigation, we would be wrong too.

But Vella in his wisdom can say what he likes, and if he were working with l-Orizzont as in fact he did years ago – because you know not many people remember that he was a diligent Labourite then – he would probably have insinuated the same about Beppe Fenech Adami.

So what is good for the Goose is good for the Gander.

What Vella would have been correct in saying is that neither Mizzi nor Fenech Adami can exculpate themselves by simply saying they did nothing wrong and operated within a legal framework. It is not illegal to have a Panama account or BVI as any good audit firm will attest. Neither is it illegal to be a director of a fiduciary company.

What is problematic is that politicians cannot be involved in activities that raise more questions than they answer.

But then when all fails, I should always look to Marlene Farrugia’s thinking process, the one that picks and chooses whom to castigate and whom to completely ignore!