On the right, Maltese conservatives still unable to find common ground

Fractures in the mainstream consensus have unleashed demands from the right-wing fringe, but Christian-conservative aspirations may be hard to reconcile

Paul Vincenti (left) and Henry Battistino (right) seem to find some sort of common ground with Ivan Grech Mintoff’s conservative, eurosceptic formation
Paul Vincenti (left) and Henry Battistino (right) seem to find some sort of common ground with Ivan Grech Mintoff’s conservative, eurosceptic formation

Two lobby groups that have shown themselves to be effective at mobilizing people on the conservative and far-right ends of the spectrum are, respectively, the pro-life network led by, amongst others, Gift Of Life president Paul Vincenti, and the Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin (Patrijotti).

Both movements, as well as Ivan Grech Mintoff’s fringe right-wing eurosceptic formation Alleanza Bidla, are attempting to fill in the cracks from the mainstream parties, where voters seem to be concerned about ‘nativist’ concerns like identity, culture and the effects of migration.

Paul Vincenti was one of the first to demand that MPs take up the call of what he terms ‘Christian conservatives’, in the face of government policies that are making a clear separation between Church and State. 

A vocal critic of government policy – Vincenti says it threatens Christian values – he runs a Facebook group called ‘The New Christian movement – Business Page’, which aims to “give Christians and conservatives their voice back in Maltese party politics”.  

“We want to weed out the candidates, from both parties, that represent Christian values,” he said, adding that these values have been completely disregarded by both the Labour and Nationalist parties.  

“The time is right for someone to pose a serious challenge to the PL-PN establishment. The parties are secure because there is no alternative. They are not being challenged and are moving forward with their policies in search of the liberal vote. They are pandering to minorities, at the expense of traditional values,” said Vincenti.

He stressed that Christians do have ‘red lines’, such as life and the family. “Inroads have been made on both fronts by the left. This has alienated a lot of voters,” he said. “We still don’t know who to vote for.”

But asked the possibility of the group developing into a party come the election, Vincenti said, “[the New Christian Movement] may consider an offshoot” but insisted that the group’s main aim remains that of informing the Christian vote.

The Patrijotti, on the other hand, have already stated their intention to contest and have had their registration accepted by the Electoral Commission. Could a coalition with the Patrijotti work? One major stumbling block, according to Vincenti, is that the group is too focused on one issue. “I don’t feel comfortable voting for them as yet because I don’t fully know what they represent.”

He said he would be more inclined to support Alleanza Bidla, because its leader, Ivan Grech Mintoff, has been very clear about where the group stands on a range of issues.

“They [small parties and lobby groups] have all tried to pull us to their side, however our position remains: prove to us that you should get the Christian vote and we will then inform Christians and let them decide for themselves,” he said. 

Patrijotti president Henry Battistino also pointed out several factors that would be problematic in a pro-life movement-Patrijotti partnership. For instance, he feels the Patrijotti have been “stigmatized” by the church. “This is ironic because we are the only party defending Christianity,” he said.

The party has in the recent past led protests against granting a planning permit for a mosque and prayer room in St Paul’s Bay, as well as having served pork sandwiches in a show of defiance against Muslim worshippers who took out their praying mats on the Msida waterfront.

“We have ideas about the working class that are more leftist than other parties, however on immigration we are more right-wing, but not far-right,” Battistino claimed.

Like Vincenti, he said the party he finds most agreeable is Alleanza Bidla. “They have good values and a good administration. We have some common ground, for example we are both skeptical about the EU, however our position is not identical to theirs.”

Battistino also said that a “liberal influence” inside the political class had resulted in the abandonment of working-class people and traditional values. “I feel, now more than ever, it is important for the dominance of the two main parties to be challenged,” he said.

Alleanza Bidla were contacted for their position, however Grech Mintoff refused to give comments to this newspaper because of “things that were published [about him] in the past that the newspaper is yet to apologize for”.