Confusing the issues

Joseph Muscat has a well thought out PR strategy while Simon Busuttil and his team are often falling between two stools. Too often

While Ann Fenech (right with Simon Busuttil) scored an auto-goal with injudicious remarks about a popular pastizzi outlet, the lopsided €60 million deal was starved of the attention it necessitated
While Ann Fenech (right with Simon Busuttil) scored an auto-goal with injudicious remarks about a popular pastizzi outlet, the lopsided €60 million deal was starved of the attention it necessitated

It has been a week when the PN’s PR strategy failed completely.

Instead of concentrating on one issue, the PN had to deal with Minister Chris Cardona’s alleged brothel escapade, with the ignobility of Minister Konrad Mizzi delivering statements in the House of Representatives, the renewed contract of Mrs Sai Mizzi, and the sale of the ITS site in St George’s Bay. 

To add to this plethora of issues, we even had an auto-goal scored by the injudicious remarks about a popular pastizzi outlet posted on Facebook by Ann Fenech, the president of the PN executive. This issue went viral and the PN had to carry out a damage limitation exercise.

Instead of concentrating on the most important story, the PN tried to tackle everything. No wonder many people think the PN is against everything, whatever it is.

I would not be surprised if in actual fact, Muscat timed the publication of the contract of the sale of the ITS site during a period when there were so many issues being discussed in the country. Nor would I be surprised if he also asked Konrad Mizzi to deal with the issue in Parliament to provoke the Opposition to talk about Panama rather than about St George’s Bay. 

As it is, the Opposition lost a golden opportunity to uncover the stealthy way in which the sale of the site was said to have a €60 million price tag when the price is so much different. If one studies the contract of sale, one cannot but conclude that it will take years – a decade or two – for the government to cash in the indicated €60 million as the conditions in which the sale was couched are heavily weighted in favour of the company purchasing the property for development.

Comparisons with the price tag of projects launched by a PN administration some 30 years ago are not on. The conditions of the property market then and now are as different as night and day. 

To be sure, I am not against such a development but there are ways how this could have been done. And these are not the ways adopted by the government to arrive at this lopsided deal.

And to complicate matters, the conditions of the sale were arrived at when the government and the Planning Authority are committed to produce a new Paceville masterplan. Nobody knows whether the proposed development fits in with the masterplan – a situation that leads to people suspecting that the new masterplan will assume that there is a commitment for the development of that particular site. Others suspect that – in Malta’s hallowed tradition – there will never be a masterplan at all and the area will be redeveloped piecemeal.

As it is, the government’s interest to eventually get those 60 million is now in direct conflict with the government’s duty to ensure that there is some serious thinking and logic behind a masterplan for the area aiming to serve the common good. 

Instead of concentrating on this one issue and exposing the contract for what it really is – a piece of valuable real estate in Malta being given away for peanuts, probably to fulfil a pre-electoral commitment – the Opposition got lost somewhere between Panama and a brothel in Germany.

There is a limit to how much public opinion can digest at the same time. Even concentrating on one issue necessitates the repetition of one’s criticism. The Opposition’s criticism of the sale of the ITS site – if any – was lost among all the words and arguments about other issues.

Which continues to convince me that Joseph Muscat’s art in ‘marketing’ is much superior to that of Simon Busuttil and his acolytes. 

In short, Joseph Muscat has a well thought out PR strategy while Simon Busuttil and his team are often falling between two stools. Too often.

To stand a chance of winning the election next year, the PN direly needs a fresh approach to its PR strategy.

Electoral pacts

Speaking during a programme on Net TV earlier this week, Democratic Party leader Marlene Farrugia confirmed that talks are underway today between a representative of the Nationalist Party and that of the Democratic Party on the possibility of forming a coalition. 

She said the coalition would not be one between of the Nationalist and Democratic parties but one comprising the Maltese of good will because it would act in line with what it would have promised the people. 

Marlene Farrugia even said she believed the next election would be won by the people who would be part of this coalition for a true change... a change which could still take place and which did not happen under the premiership of Joseph Muscat.

Nice talk, of course. But where’s the beef?

First of all, the electoral strength of the Democratic Party is very limited at best. Polls show that, in fact, the launching of this party did not have any appreciable impact on people’s voting intentions. One could argue that in our system, votes cast for the Democratic Party will be wasted, unless it manages to garner at least one seat. Is this possible? Yes if it has four or five serious candidates contesting in every electoral district. But one year before the election is due, this seems an impossible dream. This applies to Alternattiva Demokratika as well.

A coalition can only happen when there are more than two parties represented in Parliament. Otherwise the two sides (so to speak) have to contest the election as one party – which is no coalition at all.

The truth is that people who do not want to see Joseph Muscat being returned to power, have no alternative but to vote PN.

This is because our system has been tweaked to ensure that the number of seats in Parliament reflects the popular vote – only if and only when there are only two parties who win seats in Parliament. 

Calls for a radical change in our electoral system have fallen on deaf ears. 

Both Labour and the PN seem comfortable with things as they are. No wonder: the system gives an incredible advantage to the two-party situation. 

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