[ANALYSIS] The power of three - Simon and the two dynasties

Will the elevation of two sons of two Nationalist Party patriarchs to the party’s two deputy leadership posts strengthen or weaken it?

By electing Beppe Fenech Adami and Mario de Marco as the two PN deputy leaders, party councillors have placed the Fenech Adami and de Marco families back at centre stage.

Since Busuttil's new strategy is to project his party as TeamPN rather than SimonPN, the role of the two new deputy leaders will be crucial in the party's bid to reverse the 36,000 vote deficit.

One clear disadvantage of choosing the two dynastic heirs as deputy leaders is that it gives the impression that the party is facing the future by looking back with nostalgia towards a glorious past, when the Fenech Adami-de Marco coalition broke the hold of Mintoffian hegemony on Maltese society.

It also gives the impression that Simon Busuttil's first act as leader, that of changing the statute to make way for two instead of one deputy leader, was simply meant to accommodate the dynastic ambitions of the Fenech Adami and de Marco clans.

For the change in statute, approved a few days after Busuttil's election, was ultimately the only way Busuttil could keep the Fenech Adami and de Marco scions on board.

While Beppe Fenech Adami was unwilling to back off from the deputy leadership race after having already backed off from the leadership race to support Busuttil, Mario de Marco was equally unwilling to contest the deputy leadership race if challenged by Fenech Adami.

So for Busuttil the only solution was to not choose between the two and instead create a new post for Beppe Fenech Adami, whose victory against Claudette Buttigieg was a foregone conclusion, considering his legacy. This gave de Marco the gift of confirmation by 96% of the delegates.

Although de Marco found himself deputy leader after a one-horse race, he had earned his place in the party leadership by getting 38% of the vote in the first round of the leadership contest against the more favoured Busuttil, who started the race as the clear favourite of the party's establishment.

By withdrawing from the second round de Marco also earned the respect of delegates for sparing the party a divisive second round.

De Marco's standing was confirmed by surveys showing that he was more popular than Busuttil among floating voters thus making him indispensable in any bid to reach out to the voters who had switched sides in the last election.

De Marco confirmed his standing in the party by securing 96% of the vote last Saturday - a result which was three points higher than Busuttil's own 93% in the second round of the  leadership drive.

The price of getting de Marco on board was creating a new deputy leadership post. This cleared the way for both de Marco and Fenech Adami to become deputy leaders.

Therefore in the end Busuttil managed to achieve what he wanted: a more inclusive party with a leadership troika, which includes his rival in the leadership race, Mario de Marco, without paying the price of irking Beppe Fenech Adami.

In so doing Busuttil has managed to avoid Lawrence Gonzi's crucial mistake in 2004, when he left runner-up John Dalli in the cold  and had Tonio Borg, who was very similar to him, as his deputy leader. Busuttil has also emulated the elder Fenech Adami, who persuaded his rival in the leadership contest, the elder de Marco, to become party deputy leader.

Still the price he has to pay is the perception that he accommodated the dynastic ambitions of his new deputy leaders.

But it is a price that, in the end, Busuttil may pay willingly. Both Eddie Fenech Adami and Guido de Marco were highly respected political leaders, and being related to them is more an asset than a liability.

Moreover while Mario de Marco finds himself elected to the deputy leadership three years after his father's death and 12 years after Guido left active politics to assume the presidency, Beppe Fenech Adami finds himself elected a full nine years since his father resigned as party leader. Although both politicians clearly benefitted from having a prestigious surname and, in Fenech Adami's, case the influence of a father who still wields a degree of political influence, the time lag between the end of their fathers' political careers and their own rise to the helm of the PN indicates that both deputy leaders had to fight their way up the PN ranks.

But while Mario de Marco has already proved himself to be a politician in his own right, given his success as minister in the last administration, the onus is on Fenech Adami to prove that he has more to offer to the party than his surname.

The question he has to face is, Beyond his family legacy, what makes him more special than other MPs to be second in command? One of the risks faced by the party was that other potential candidates simply backed off in the knowledge that they stood little chance against a Fenech Adami.

While the fact that he was not a minister under Lawrence Gonzi makes him an ideal candidate to unify his party following defeat, his hawkish views and contrasts with party rebels over the past years raise questions about his ability to reach out. Another difficulty for Fenech Adami is that his role will overlap with that of the future general secretary of the party.

Triumph of diversity?

The major advantage of the elevation of the two politicians to the leadership is that they are different from each other and from Busuttil. While de Marco brings with him a sense of gravitas and appeals to more liberal, middle-class voters, Fenech Adami is more populist and more in tune with the party's grass roots.

Despite Fenech Adami's late conversion to more liberal views on themes like gay adoption, he could represent a greater guarantee of continuity for the party's more conservative bedrock.

Having a strong personal identity, both deputies strengthen the team brand of the party and militate against the emergence of a new leadership cult. In their own ways, both de Marco and Fenech Adami contrast with Busuttil's mainstream boyish looks and placid temperament.

Clearly, while de Marco can appeal to new voters and more liberal switchers, in his own way Fenech Adami can appeal to that breed of party faithful who felt excluded during the Gonzi years.

Yet while the PN stands to benefit from this diversity of style, it also lost an opportunity in not electing a woman as one of the deputy leaders. The all-male leadership team could hamper the party's ability to convey its message to women.

Like father, like son?

Surely both deputies carry the burden of their surname. But how much do the two resemble their fathers? The answer is a little, but not so much.

Stylishly de Marco might be more similar to his father than Fenech Adami is to his. De Marco's eloquence and political gravitas, which resound in his highly distinctive voice, are extremely reminiscent of his father, even if he avoids certain of the senior de Marco's antics, like greeting passersby, acquaintances and lifelong friends with equal enthusiasm.

In fact, de Marco is more introspective and steers away from his father's reputation for seeking the limelight.

"I resemble my mother, not my father... My father was an extrovert. I am not. He had a tendency of taking on things and then seeing how to handle them, whereas I like to weigh out the options and take in the full scenario before deciding," he said in a recent interview.

For his part Beppe Fenech Adami presence is far less intimidating than that of his father, who over the years had assumed an aura of a larger-than-life historical figure who restored democratic checks and balances after 1987 and secured Malta's entry in the European Union in 2004.

While he clearly still lacks the gravitas of his father, Beppe Fenech Adami comes across as a good, albeit too partisan, debater who can deliver a clear and focused message.

In some ways he embodies many of the qualities required of a deputy leader for party affairs, foremost amongst which is the need any leader has for a hawkish foot soldier. Moreover Fenech Adami is a "what you see is what you get" kind of politician, who contrasts with de Marco's more aristocratic appeal and Busuttil's chameleon appeal.

First speeches

Interestingly the characters of the two deputy leaders came very much across in their first speeches. While de Marco was clearly more elegant and sophisticated in his speech, Fenech Adami was more passionate and emotionally driven. Fenech Adami was clearly more forthright in referring directly to his father in his speech.

Even his speech was reminiscent of his father's 1977 speech, which was characterised by Fenech Adami's reinvention of the PN as a workers' party. The younger Fenech Adami showed a strategic insight by emphasising this aspect, which could be a clear indication that in opposition the party will shift once again to the centre left.

Recalling the PN slogan of 36 years ago, in 1977, Qalbna mal-ħaddiema ('Our heart with workers'), Fenech Adami emphasized the party's commitment to create employment, safeguard workers' interests and defend workers' rights.

This appeal to the working class contrasts with the dominant assumption that the PN lost the election because it lost its touch with middle-class voters, but could be closer to reality, which saw the PN losing heavily in southern and less affluent localities.

For his part de Marco spoke on the need to transform the PN into a "factory of ideas" and to work closely with civil society. He also spoke on the need to change the way "we talk, practice and do politics," describing the general election result as "a wake-up call" for the party to better understand the "country's aspirations, hurts and society's development, especially in civil rights."

With issues of morality largely put on the backburner, while the younger Fenech Adami seems to be keen on repeating his father's major success - that of recovering support among a segment of the working class which may well have been turned off by Gonzi's detached brand of austerity politics, de Marco seems keen on addressing middle-class discontentment with the way politics in conducted in Malta.

This suggests that the two deputy leaders will be taking a more ideological and political role, leaving it up to the new secretary general to taken on the role assumed by Louis Galea in the 1980s, to reorganise the party structures.

So far the only candidate who has submitted his nomination for this role is former social policy minister Chris Said, a strong character in his own right, who adds value to the party even if his election makes the PN leadership even more top heavy.

The major advantage of this is that, unlike his predecessor, Busuttil has given all internal factions and potential rivals a stake in the party's future. In this way he is sharing the burden and putting a sense of responsibility on everyone. Instead of relying on one lonely horse, the PN will rely on four high-powered horses.

The major problem Busuttil faces now is that, while a team composed of contrasting personalities may well strengthen the party by making it more inclusive, in the absence of a master chef, too many cooks tend to spoil the broth. Will Busuttil be capable of fulfilling that role, or will the new secretary general emerge as the party's dark horse? 

Emmanuel Mallia
PN has not learnt its lessons ! They are still living in the past and they are in for an even bigger defeat ! They still think that we, the ordinary people believe everything they feed us ! The famous trio, led by simple Simon, are just puppets of the old Gonzipn clique, driven by an obscure, hidden, back helm administration. This was, and still is and so it will remain !
KLIKEKPN would be a better name. Just because it's the same old faces that are in the leadership positions.
KLIKEKPN would be a better name. Just because it's the same old faces that are in the leadership positions.
Who will lead who? Who will follow who? Who will give the direction? Who will take over the command ? Simon? Does one honestly believe Beppe and Mario will take orders from Simon or Simon give them direction???? PNtomime season is now truly open~ PNteam ~ PNtomime !
minflok dark horse kieku jien nikteb "the one that will come from behind" jew the one that is biding his time. Ghalija Dr. Chris Said hu l-uniku wiehed kapaci li johrog lil-PN mill-abbiss li intefa fih hu stess. Rigward dak li ghidt cioe' li Dr.EFA u Dr. Guido de Marco huma politici famuzi tal-Passat, ma nafx kemm se jibqghu jissemmew hekk meta l-istorja tikxef kif wiehed kien imdahhal fil-frame-up ta' missieri, Karm Grima, (qalitu car u tond l-Inkjesta Muscat Azz.) u l-iehor heba din l-Inkjesta ghax kixfet kif anke hu kien jaf li se jaharqulu il-bictejn ghamara u ma ghamel xejn dak inhar tat-Tnejn l-Iswed, biex wehel missieri u qatt ma qal il-verita' ta' kull 15ta' Ottubru meta kien jipposa quddiem il-bictejn ghamara li harqulu.Wara halla lil Dr A.Sant jisraqha.ara mist.parl 14066.
How the hell one can expect, a, renewal recycled PN with the old the same old faces with their old expired ideas to change the system when the same click STILL dominate.When the PL had the first change in the PL was when A.Sant was the new leader with new ideas and a new reformed PL who had the guts to remove any clicks;.The second and most succesful change of the PL was carried out by J Muscat.The result of the last election says it all.In the PL no clicks or bullies are untouchable.
Although I sincerely wish Simon Busuttil well, I don't envy his position. Being surrounded by at least 2 possibly 3 leadership contenders makes him appear like a caretaker leader, simply there to take the flak for the election loss while the deputies survive untainted. I suspect Fenech Adami will be the final winner of this charade, shortly after the next general election.
The only sensible unbiased evaluation of politics from Maltatoday come from James Debono. They are never shallow, well researched and always interesting. Keep up the good work James. It is disturbing how this newspaper always tries to paint a negative image of one party and accompanies any positive news with some sort of detraction to the same party. It is definetly not independant.
The only sensible unbiased evaluation of politics from Maltatoday come from James Debono. They are never shallow, well researched and always interesting. Keep up the good work James. It is disturbing how this newspaper always tries to paint a negative image of one party and accompanies any positive news with some sort of detraction to the same party. It is definetly not independant.