Cacopardo: coalition deal has ‘30% chance’

Alternattiva Demokratika deputy leader Carmel Cacopardo has put the chances of the two parties striking a deal at 30%

(From left) Ralph Cassar, Arnold Cassola, Mario Mallia and Carmel Cacopardo met the PN leadership on Friday but an agreement looks unlikely
(From left) Ralph Cassar, Arnold Cassola, Mario Mallia and Carmel Cacopardo met the PN leadership on Friday but an agreement looks unlikely

After the inconclusive coalition talks between the Greens and the PN, Alternattiva Demokratika deputy leader Carmel Cacopardo has put the chances of the two parties striking a deal at 30%.

Speaking to the press following initial discussions on Friday afternoon, both PN and AD leaders said that there was broad agreement on the political principles but the two sides could not come to an agreement over the structure of the coalition. 

Disagreement stemmed from the PN’s insistence that AD candidates contest the election under the PN name and emblem. The Greens, however, are pressing for a new identity for the coalition. 

“The name of the pre-electoral alliance should be a reflection of the political diversity of the alliance,” Cacopardo told MaltaToday. 

Asked whether AD would increase its chances of electing MPs in a coalition with the PN and PD as opposed to contesting alone, Cacopardo said “the alliance is necessary primarily because it is in the country’s interest. Similarly it is also in the country’s interest that all political creeds are represented in the next Parliament. The pooling of votes in such an alliance can contribute to making this happen.”

Pointing out that Friday’s meeting was of a preliminary nature, Cacopardo said “the issue of the name was discussed and emphasised at this stage because the choice of name agreed to by the PN and PD was considered by AD as being a major handicap in communicating to the electorate that the alliance is the voice of change. The PN at this stage is not a credible voice for change.”

The PN has already reached an agreement with Marlene Farrugia’s Democratic Party and the two parties will present a common electoral programme, based on the principles of good governance, social justice, a sustainable economy, safeguarding of the environment and constitutional reform.

According to the deal signed on Friday, candidates from the nascent party will contest under the PN banner and be distinguished by having ‘Tal-Orangjo’ next to their name. 

But the Greens want the coalition to have a different name and emblem from the PN’s and this would require the coalition to register as a party, given that the new Financing of Political Parties Act makes it clear that “only registered political parties may nominate candidates for election under that political party’s name”


Activists unconvinced by coalition

The Greens have ruled out forming a coalition with Labour and chairperson Arnold Cassola has admitted that the aim of any coalition should be “to remove Muscat’s corrupt clique from power.”

However, some AD voters have openly questioned the utility of forming a coalition with the PN, given its poor track record in environmental protection and good governance. 

A number of activists and AD voters are threatening not to vote for AD if a pact is signed with the PN. Others however, including former AD chairperson Michael Briguglio are urging the party’s leadership, which includes Cassola, Cacopardo, secretary-general Ralph Cassar and veteran party spokesperson Mario Mallia to put the national interest first. 

In one of his online posts, Briguglio said “politics requires compromise, a sense of proportion and situating one’s identity within the common good. In this case, this provides immense electoral opportunities for a small party (identity) within a bigger party list (the common good).”

In an open letter to AD’s leadership, Briguglio termed the current political situation as “a political and constitutional crisis” and said this is the only way how third party candidates can have a real chance of being elected in parliament.

In 2003, the Greens and the PN were locked in similar talks to contest under one list in the pivotal election that sealed EU membership. However no agreement was reached and AD went on to register its lowest ever tally of votes. 

Asked whether a similar result – especially after obtaining its highest ever number of votes in 2013 – could spell the end for AD, Cacopardo said the party “has been through worse times than this, and still soldiers on.”


Red lines: hunting and boathouses 

Apart from the name and emblem, one other potential stumbling block takes the form of non-negotiable policies. 

“The broad agreement on the political direction was identified after a brief discussion of the document submitted by AD. There are obviously a number of red lines which still have to be discussed. Among those which come to mind and in respect of which AD has taken a clear stand are hunting, the illegal shanty town at Armier, the proposed undersea tunnel in the Gozo Channel and the proposed racetrack. This is only an indicative list,” Cacopardo said.    

The Greens have been around for almost 30 years but have never won a seat in Parliament. The way the electoral system has been tweaked by the two major parties and the perception that voting for smaller parties is a wasted vote have been major stumbling blocks in AD’s quixotic pursuit of parliamentary representation. 

And Cacopardo believes that a coalition would go a long way in quashing this perception.

“The proposed pre-electoral alliance would give voters back their freedom to choose their representatives in parliament without fears,” he said. 

Asked whether this a last chance saloon for AD, given that in five years time both major parties will probably have no interest in forming a coalition, Cacopardo said “this is an opportunity which given the right conditions AD is willing to participate in. What would happen in five years time is too early to predict.”