A coalition with no ‘red lines’

For PD leader Marlene Farrugia, talk of ‘red lines’ is very much reminiscent of the male-dominated politics

The agreement between the PN and the PD will see PD candidates running under the PN banner
The agreement between the PN and the PD will see PD candidates running under the PN banner

Although there are five principles which the Nationalist Party and the Democratic Party (PD) agreed upon, PD leader Marlene Farrugia failed to identify the red lines that would make a PN-PD ‘coalition’ inadmissible.

Farrugia talked of “a written contract” between the PN and the PD to honour their agreement but the parties are yet to define a clear programme and trash out the non-negotiable policies of each side. 

“Terms of reference have been drafted and it’s being ironed out,” she said, adding that it will be published once it’s finalised.

For Farrugia, talk of ‘red lines’ is very much reminiscent of the male-dominated politics which is “highly confrontational”.

“Politics dominated by men is about confrontation, where the ego is at the heart of politics. Even talk of the PD being absorbed by the PN reflects this. This is not a war of egos; we are there to serve the national interest,” she said, adding that the coalition is the only chance of giving the electorate an electable alternative.

The agreement between the PN and the PD will see PD candidates running under the PN banner, identified by the nickname “tal-orangjo” in reference to the fledgling party’s colours. 

Alternattiva Demokratika has been the only third party to register significant votes during recent general elections – although never enough to get it to parliament. The Green Party’s leadership immediately distanced itself from the agreement entered into between the other two parties, insisting that this was not the type of ‘coalition’ it was after.

While some – such as former AD chairperson Michael Briguglio – describe the PN-PD’s pact as the only way to effectively get small party candidates elected to parliament, others have argued that the PD’s absorption by the PN would mean that the Orange Party has already lost its identity.

But for the pragmatic Farrugia, the arrangement was the result of out-of-the-box thinking.

“Perhaps for AD, a political party means having a name, a statute, members and followers. For me, a political party is a tool in people’s hands to ensure that democracy prevails. The current electoral system doesn’t allow me to successfully run a party on my own. So what can I do to get us to parliament?”

She said, that running under the PN banner would increase the current opposition’s chances of being elected to parliament. 

“There will be at least one PD candidate on every district; people who want to elect the Nationalist Party to power, but not with the previous candidates, can now choose from the PD candidates. 

“The PN remains the biggest opposition party, but it may not be credible enough for some. We are aiding it in its renewal.”

Insisting that she joined forces with the Nationalist Party out of her love for the country, Farrugia denied having discussed any pre-electoral agreements that would land her an executive role if elected to power.

“I am only interested in serving my country and it’s the same thing which I told Simon Busuttil each time he asked me anything along those lines,” she said, when asked whether she would be deputy prime minister or hold a ministerial role if the PN is elected to government.

She argued, that the more people support the PD’s position, the more it can leave its “imprint” in the common electoral manifesto between the two parties.

The talks have mainly focused on good governance, sustainable economy, social justice, environment and constitutional renewal.

Farrugia confirmed that both parties have already agreed that a Nationalist government would launch a constitutional reform during its first two years to ease the efforts of political parties who would want to form a coalition.

Farrugia said she was not in a position to give a total number of PD candidates that will be contesting the elections, “as many valid candidates are still approaching us”.

Farrugia, who during the 2013 elections contested the fifth and sixth electoral district, has not yet decided which districts she will be contesting. She however said that she was being encouraged to contest a district in the south of Malta, or Gozo. A final decision will however be taken in consultation with Simon Busuttil.

Farrugia stands by former police constable

It was also agreed that the PN would not interfere with the PD’s choice of candidates, and vice-versa. Whilst the PN has its own rigorous vetting system in place, the PD will vet its own candidates.

But the different vetting system has raised eyebrows amongst PN MPs and candidates, following the presence of former police constable Mario Portelli in the meeting which sealed the alliance last week.

Mario Portelli, formerly PC 99, was boarded out of the force on mental health grounds and a court this year deemed his testimony in a court case as “untrustworthy”. Portelli had also accused Romeo Bone – a criminal who was recently targeted in a car bomb attack – of stalking him a few years ago. Bone was cleared of the accusations.

Farrugia said that society should not discard Portelli for what happened in the past.

“The first thing I did was to ask him for a copy of his police conduct, which is clean. I’m fully aware of the difficulties he faced in the past but I am not ready to condemn a man who did not have an easy life. He has now found his footing and is working on moving forward,” she said.

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