A party, divided

For Mario De Marco, a usually reserved man, to go into such personal details for the benefit of his party role means something is afoot within the party.

Beppe Fenech Adami (left) and Mario de Marco
Beppe Fenech Adami (left) and Mario de Marco

The cracks have been there for a while, but lately, and this week in particular, the fissures have deepened and are now practically chasms.

The Nationalist Party is a party divided, something which even the most oblivious bystander has now started to notice. It was rather hard to ignore, in fact, when you have the deputy leader, Mario de Marco, having to resort to making a public statement to explain himself to his own party’s supporters.

In a Facebook post, Dr De Marco said he had noted comments and posts online lamenting that he was recently absent from the media and the public sphere. This gave the impression that it was irrelevant to him and other PN MPs as to whether the Nationalist Party wins the upcoming general election or not. “I spent most of December recovering from surgery I underwent in the UK at the end of November.”

De Marco then went on to make a list of all his political activities since then to disprove the accusation that he had been “absent”. Seriously, how can anyone but the most callous have blamed him for being absent? Those who have had family members stricken by illness know that everything else becomes trivial because the focus of your entire world suddenly becomes the health issue.

What was worse was that he felt he had to go into detail about his medical condition (even though it had already been reported in November that a benign tumour located along a facial nerve had been removed).

“I have undergone two major surgeries, other relatively minor interventions, had to get to grips with a facial paralysis, undertook several MRI scans and visited some eight times the UK for my out-patient appointments.

“In between, I attended to the best of my abilities my parliamentary, party and professional duties. Despite the need to use surgical tape to hike up an otherwise paralysed side of my mouth, I have never shied away from my duties or debates,” he said.

For this usually reserved man to have to go into such personal details clearly shows that something is afoot within the party.

In contrast, Beppe Fenech Adami, who has also had health issues, has been praised for not skipping a beat. Make of that what you will.

Meanwhile, set against all this we have the Salvu Mallia factor, which has split the party down the middle between those who yearn for the gravitas of the PN as it was of old, and those who prefer the brash, cocksure approach of this man whose motto seems to be “me ne frego”.

Thrown into this chaotic mix was a quote which was given much prominence that Salvu is pro-choice and pro-euthanasia. Well if that was not bound to explode over at Stamperija like a Molotov cocktail, nothing would. The conservative faction did not hide the fact that they were shocked to their core that this man had actually been accepted as a PN candidate. A quick assessment was made and then, cue the sound of frantic backpedalling. As the saying in Maltese goes, with his arrival on the political scene, Salvu “għamel hoss” (created a stir) but that was only because Maltese politics in general is in a yawningly tedious rut and everyone is fed up of it.

The PN, which for months could not seem to make any inroads into Labour’s popularity, was suddenly being talked about, but they have to be careful at reading too much into this, because we have been here before. I compare the quirky novelty of someone like Salvu to the media stunts pulled by Franco Debono whenever he wanted to annoy Gonzi, and those pulled by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando back when he was making Alfred Sant’s life miserable.

It remains to be seen whether this is just a momentary distraction which, for the time being, is making things a bit more colourful and interesting. When I saw Salvu standing by himself at his one-man protest, however, the photo spoke volumes: he was (literally) out in the cold. It was evident that while Simon seems to think Salvu is the best thing since sliced bread, he has not quite managed to convince the rest of the Nationalist Party to welcome him with open arms. Not everyone is as charmed off their feet by Salvu’s “style”.

As if the PN didn’t have enough discord within its ranks, the loud clamouring for David Thake to be brought back on Radio 101 has worked, but how this will go down with those candidates who do not have their own radio programme has yet to be seen. For that was what it was all about, of course: candidates contesting on the same district as Thake see his radio programme as giving him an unfair advantage. There is also another wave of complaints which is insisting that Net TV should become a proper propaganda station rather than churning out the usual ho-hum fare of magazine programmes and heavy dramas. I can just see it now: wall-to-wall, would-be politicians, all insisting to have their own show.

And if you thought PN vs PL conflicts were ugly, that’s nothing when compared to the ugliness of candidates within the same party scrambling and elbowing each other out of the way to get their names out there so that constituents in their district will elect them to that precious seat.

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