Coalition: To be, or not to be

It seems to be a big gamble on Simon Busuttil’s part, that could lead to a quasi-Pyrrhic victory because Marlene will certainly not let go and start calling the shots

PN leader Simon Busuttil listens attentitively to Marlene Farrugia addressing a PN rally in 2016 in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations, in Valletta (Photo: Ray Attard)
PN leader Simon Busuttil listens attentitively to Marlene Farrugia addressing a PN rally in 2016 in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations, in Valletta (Photo: Ray Attard)

It was Alfred Sant who once famously wrote that he would even make a pact with the devil to put back Labour in power.

He was exploiting some metaphoric licence, of course. Although after he assumed power, a certain Dom Mintoff claimed that he and Alfred Sant had agreed that he was to have a different electoral programme. The rest is history.

I recalled this part of our political history when I read of the pre-election coalition that is being discussed by Simon Busuttil’s PN and Marlene Farrugia’s PD. One of the most telling things is the fact that while Simon Busuttil says that the deal has not yet been struck and that it would have to be approved by the PN’s executive committee and other party structures, Marlene Farrugia’s post on Facebook seems to be a conscious effort to nail the deal prematurely by publicly claiming it’s done and over. Remember she is continually facing the fact that the share her party gets in surveys of voting intentions is, to say the least, meagre.

The article published last Monday in the Times of Malta, written by her party’s deputy leader, continues to indicate that hers was a premeditated strategy rather than an unconscious exercise of jumping the gun. But more of that later.

These last four days or so I have been trying to overcome my inherent bias, ignoring temptations for a knee-jerk reaction and make a super-human effort to look at the ‘proposed’ deal objectively and dispassionately.

So assuming the coalition is on, what happens if it loses or wins the election?

First let us assume that the coalition would have been formed in vain and Joseph Muscat wins another five years in power. 

Marlene Farrugia would have pushed her party from the ‘also rans’ to a force to reckon with in Maltese politics – more so if she manages to get herself or another candidate elected. Such an MP will not be a member of the PN’s parliamentary group expected to obey the party’s whip. 

I reckon that the presence of the Democratic Party within the PN list will attract more votes to it than if it contested on its own. That is because I think that there would be traditional PN voters who are still disgruntled by the PN who have no choice but to vote PN if they want the current government out. They would probably move their vote from a ‘reluctant’ PN to a ‘not so reluctant’ tal-orange standing in the PN list. Simon would not have achieved his target and the PN would start looking at another five years in Opposition.

In other words the Farrugia’s PD would have earned a lot and become respectable enough to be a force to be reckoned with in Maltese politics... while the PN would get nothing or even less than nothing when people start counting the PN’s share of the vote by excluding the first preference votes given to the PD.

Look at the other scenario where the coalition wins and moves into government. This would mean that Simon Busuttil becomes Prime Minister and the PN’s leaning over backwards would have been worth it. Yet, Marlene Farrugia’s PD will be even stronger if this happens. If the PD gets one MP elected, this would be a bad omen, more so considering that a ‘coalition’ victory is not likely to mean anything but a slight majority (probably of one) in the House of Representatives. If Marlene Farrugia is elected, she would have the power to ‘control’ the government at her beck and call. If only PN candidates get elected, Marlene Farrugia’s party would still be in a much stronger position than it would have been if it contested the election on a separate ticket.

Whichever way one looks at it, it seems to be a big gamble on Simon Busuttil’s part – a gamble that could lead to a quasi-Pyrrhic victory because Marlene Farrugia will certainly not let go and start calling the shots. Simon might argue – with more than a good reason – that it is all worth it as the PN sharing power with a political upstart is better than the PN in Opposition.

I do not doubt in any way Simon Busuttil’s intentions in pushing for an anti-corruption coalition. His personal integrity and his personal record within the PN can never indicate anything but honesty and good intentions – even though there have been moments when his strategy was not well-thought out and when his knee-jerk reactions led people to think that he has no strategy at all.

The problem is Marlene Farrugia. She is an extreme form of pusher with a dominant personality. To many, her belief in the need of the country to get rid of Joseph Muscat seems to be more related to her personal grudges than to her vision of a different Malta. Many see her setting up of the Partit Demokratiku as an ego trip. 

And that is the fly in the ointment.

Parking problems

A recent leader in The Economist, titled ‘Aparkalypse now’ dealing with parking problems all over the world started off like this: “In Ireland people ask St. Anthony to help them find parking space. In Chicago, if you shovel the snow from a space, it belongs to you. In Shanghai, people beg their parents to reserve spaces by sitting in them. Everywhere parking is a big reason law-abiding people pay fines to the government and a cause of screaming rows between strangers.”

Nice to hear we are not alone!

The leader continues on to argue that instead of “trying to increase the supply of parking and rigging the market in favour of homeowners” authorities should raise prices of all parking spaces. In other words people should have to pay for parking all the time.

Who knows, this solution would have to be applied some day all over the world.

Charging for the use of any parking space may lure people to leave their car in a garage and use public transport to commute to work and back.

Can you imagine what people would say if this ‘economic’ solution to parking shortage is applied in Malta?

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