It is much harder to create than to destroy

If the PN’s implosion has left you feeling angry, bitter, and ‘politically homeless’… I would concentrate on building yourself a new political home, instead of just carrying on demolishing your old one

Put simply, the Nationalist Party now struggles to come up with convincing answers to even the most be-all and end-all of all political questions… like, for instance, ‘why should I vote for you, and not them?’
Put simply, the Nationalist Party now struggles to come up with convincing answers to even the most be-all and end-all of all political questions… like, for instance, ‘why should I vote for you, and not them?’

A small item in this newspaper caught my eye this week. The headline was ‘AD and PD in talks about possible collaboration’, and it featured quotes from AD’s Mario Mallia and PD’s Anthony Buttigieg: both agreeing that “the two-party system had failed its constituents, creating a monopoly by the government”; and that “the small political parties can provide a solution [to this problem].”

There was also a dissenting opinion by PN MEP hopeful Peter Agius, who held that: “small parties failed to make inroads with the voters;” and “I still believe that the parties have to unite behind a national force led by the PN.”

The article also reveals that talks of an AD/PD alliance are indeed already under way… and given that both parties will be fielding candidates in this year’s MEP and local council elections, what this suggests is that there is now a real possibility that a new political grouping may rise to fill the vacuum left by the Nationalist party’s spontaneous combustion.

Whether this will actually happen or not is obviously something I cannot predict from now. To be perfectly frank, it doesn’t look extremely likely. From my own experience interviewing various members of both those parties, I feel the ‘broth’ would be spoilt by too many competitive, domineering would-be ‘cooks’ (which is incidentally true of all Maltese political parties, and not just those two); and that, in any case, there are fundamental policy/ideology differences separating the two parties right now.

How does one reconcile AD’s moderate views on female reproductive rights, with the inflexible approach taken by PD? Will the new party align itself with the European Greens, or the ALDE? Etc, etc.

But to be fair, these are issues than can always be ironed out through negotiation and compromise. And in any case: whether it turns out to be an alliance between AD and PD, or a new party altogether… there can be little doubt that the time is ripe for a serious discussion about the ‘post-PN scenario’. The prospect of credible new party, rising to replace the PN as the country’s second major political force, no longer seems the stuff of fantasy (as it always had in the past). And I suspect that many people who may once been proud to identify themselves as ‘PN voters’, are now beginning to realise this just as much as I did around 10 years ago.  

Recently, it has become almost impossible to even socialise in this country without being subjected to endless interrogations over ‘what can be done to restore the political balance’ (by which people usually mean ‘to ‘rescue the PN from the clutches of the Delia clan’). I myself have been asked, time and again, ‘what I would do’ to avert Malta’s seemingly inevitable slide towards a one-party state; or – even more ambitiously – ‘whom I would recommend’ to replace Adrian Delia as Opposition leader… without, naturally, forever kissing goodbye to the support of Delia’s grassroots voter base.

Yet when I give my interlocutors the answers they seem to be expecting, they always tend to look at me aghast. The reaction I get usually sounds something like… “What do you mean, ‘forget the PN, and build up a new party from scratch?’ Are you nuts? We’re Nationalists. That’s our party, and we want it back…”

In brief, they all seem to share Peter Agius’s grand delusion that the only possible solution to the current impasse is “a national force led by the PN”... even though: a) the PN is very clearly in no position to ‘lead’ anything at all right now, and; b) the current impasse is itself a direction consequence of the PN’s own implosion.   

Put simply, the Nationalist Party now struggles to come up with convincing answers to even the most be-all and end-all of all political questions… like, for instance, ‘why should I vote for you, and not them?’ Not even the traditional, time-honoured (and, let’s face it, hugely unsatisfactory) answer we always got in the past – i.e., ‘because otherwise, there would be no one to counterbalance Labour’ – can suffice any longer.

How can the PN be expected to ‘counterbalance Labour’… when we can all see with our own eyes that it cannot even find any balance between its own internal dissenters? (And if you’ll allow a small digression: that is what this thing called ‘politics’ is supposed to be all about, you know. Finding a balance between things…)  And besides: unlike any time in its past history, the PN cannot offer a safe haven to adherents of vastly conflicting viewpoints – e.g., the ultra-religious and the extremely liberal – in the name of some ‘higher objective’ or other: Independence, EU membership, and all that.

The great ideological battles of yesteryear are now but a fading memory… all that’s left is partisan loyalty for its own sake: something the PN can quite simply no longer rely on.

Put those two considerations together, and what emerges is a picture of impossibility everywhere you look. It is impossible for the PN to win an election under such circumstances; and it is just as impossible for the PN to provide the level of parliamentary opposition this country so desperately needs.

There are other issues, too. Now that the entire PN Administrative Council has come out in unanimous support of Adrian Delia – and therefore against his multiple detractors within that party – what happens if (or when) the PN elects a leader from the other faction in future? Would the entire council have to follow Adrian Delia as he walks the plank? Or would the same council members hurriedly approve a new, equal and opposite resolution: this time dutifully pledging their wholehearted support to the new (anti-Delia) leader instead?

It is a situation from which only impossibilities and contradictions can possibly arise. And the staggering irony of it all is that all the above issues were already in place (and fully visible) long before Adrian Delia even took over as party leader. Indeed, some of them were even spelt out by the PN’s own internal post-mortem, following the 2013 election defeat.  

Curiously, however, a sizeable faction within what remains of the PN’s voter-base insists on holding Delia responsible for all of that party’s current predicament: like it was Delia who alienated huge swathes of Nationalist voters by building an entire campaign out of insubstantial allegations… resulting in the worst electoral defeat in the PN’s entire history. Or who, for that matter, bankrupted the party through decades of financial mismanagement…

More bizarrely still, some of these people even think that the problem could be ‘solved’ simply by removing Delia as leader, and replacing him with someone else. Yet most of them cannot name a single candidate – from within or without – who might possibly bridge that party’s internal divisions. And the few who can, tend to cite Simon Busuttil himself as a possible successor to Delia… totally disregarding the undeniable fact that Busuttil was the architect of all the circumstances that led to Delia’s surprise victory in last year’s leadership race.

At this point, you will have to forgive me for resorting to the word ‘deluded’ (and ‘delusional’) so often. There is simply no other word to describe the level of unreality that these people seem to be inhabiting…

But if you ask me – and quite a few already have – the real irony is that only ‘AD and PD’ seem to be contemplating the formation of a new political entity to fill this void. Why only those two parties… and not, say, any of the hundred-and-one ‘NGOs’ and ‘civil society organisations’ (mostly consisting of the same old recycled faces) that formed precisely to demand ‘change’ to the current status quo? Why do we never see the same sort of pro-active commitment, initiative and dedication coming from groups like ‘Il-Kenniesa’, or ‘Occupy Justice’, or ‘Repubblika’… all names, incidentally, which connote ‘action’ rather than just talk?

In the real world, you would expect a ‘kennies’ to come complete with a broom to sweep with… and to actually use it every once in a while, too. (In fact, it is only in politics – and Maltese politics at that – that you ever encounter ‘kenniesa’ who just sit back and loudly insist that everyone else does all their sweeping for them). Likewise, one cannot expect to ‘Occupy Justice’ without ever physically lifting a finger to actually occupy anything at all.

And if we talk about a Maltese ‘Republic’ today… it is only because yesterday’s politicians worked long and hard to achieve that reality in practice. It is certainly not because a small minority kept stamping its feet, in the hope that it would one day achieve all its political objectives, just by making a lot of noise.

It seems that, for all civil society’s grandiose talk of ‘revolution’ – so fiery and furious when it comes to demanding resignations, or insisting that everyone they don’t like is automatically criminalised and jailed – their political momentum just fizzles out with a whimper, the moment it comes to building something substantial from the ground up.

And this is hardly surprising, either; after all, it is much, much easier to just smash someone else’s creation to atoms, than to actually create something yourself (and if you don’t believe me, just look at the ease with which only a handful of people so thoroughly wrecked the once all-powerful PN).

So, just to avoid repetitions of the same answer in future: if the PN’s implosion has left you feeling angry, bitter, and ‘politically homeless’… I would concentrate on building yourself a new political home, instead of just carrying on demolishing your old one.
After all, I have yet to hear of a single homeless person – anywhere in the (real) world – who has ever successfully solved his or her homelessness… by simply trashing someone else’s house.

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