Fertile ground for Greens in current political climate, Cassola claims

As repeated surveys suggest Alternattiva Demokratika are a spent force, green party chairman Arnold Cassola claims his party still has fertile ground on which to thrive

AD chairperson Arnold Cassola
AD chairperson Arnold Cassola
Reporter: James Debono, Marlene Farrugia and Salvu Mallia

The next election poses a unique chance for Alternattiva Demokratika to make inroads with the disillusioned electorate, according to the green party’s chairperson Arnold Cassola. 

“30% of the public don’t trust either Joseph Muscat or Simon Busuttil,” Cassola said, citing a recent MaltaToday survey on Monday night’s edition of Reporter. “The public aspiration for a third political party is also on the rise, providing very fertile ground for AD.

“AD must make its presence felt on the ground now more than ever, and keep its eyes and ears open to see what the public want.”

The survey indicates that only 1.3% of the electorate intend to vote for AD, up from 0.8% in February.

When asked by host Saviour Balzan why AD have still failed to make significant inroads, Cassola blamed the electoral system and lack of media coverage for his party.

“The electoral system favours a two-party system, and AD are often not given space on the media to air its views as the two large parties do.”

He said that AD is willing to join forces with any people or organisations that share its views – namely its stances in favour of the EU, good governance, the environment and political consistency, and against racism and xenophobia.

“The people are now fed up with how the PN and PL both desire absolute power, with how they seize the entire country’s assets – from BOV to the water services – whenever they get elected.”

He also criticised the Nationalist Party for taking a stance against the development of land outside development zones, while at the same time backing a proposed motorsports track.

Minister insists government ‘not cornered’ by Panamagate

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis, appearing on behalf of the PL, said that the government must analyze MaltaToday’s survey in a “humble manner”, but argued that support for Joseph Muscat hasn’t declined in real terms.

Indeed, while Simon Busuttil’s trust rating increased by 3.7% since February, Muscat’s only declined by 0.3%.

“The results reflect the government’s midterm performance, and at this stage under the previous PN administration we were discussing economic problems,” he said. “Since the economy is booming, we have the luxury of discussing other issues. We have a lot of work left to do, particularly to improve governance, but we are on a constant learning curve, but the Prime Minister has never shied away from taking hard decisions.”  

He denied that recent revelations that energy minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri own offshore companies in Panama have cornered the government.

“The Prime Minister will take the necessary decisions” after an audit is conducted on Mizzi’s company,” he said, while citing past inquiries that led to the resignations of Manuel Mallia and Michael Falzon from Cabinet. “Should Muscat simply make a decision now or should he wait until he has all the evidence in hand?”

He lashed out at previous Nationalist administrations, arguing that more ministers resigned under Muscat’s three years in government than under Eddie Fenech Adami’s entire tenure.

At one point, he lashed out at the PN’s representative – shadow health minister Claudette Buttigieg – noting that she had served as communications coordinator under former health minister Joe Cassar, who resigned from Parliament in November in the wake of revelations of his connections to businessman Joe Gaffarena.

“Where was Buttigieg during the Mater Dei construction scandal, when medicines were out of stock, and when a minister [Tonio Fenech] travelled on the private jet of a businessman who was bidding for a government tender?” he asked.

Buttigieg dismissed the minister’s argument as a giveaway of his “state of panic”.

“Your credibility has just taken a nosedive with such an absurd argument,” she said. “Am I guilty by association because I was Cassar’s communications coordinator? God forbid we were to go down that route. Zammit Lewis clearly has his back to the wall, because Muscat isn’t ready to take the necessary decisions. If he truly got to know [about Mizzi’s financial set-up] three weeks before it was publicized in the media, then why didn’t he take action before the story broke?”

She sounded a cautiously optimistic tone on MaltaToday’s survey, warning that the pendulum can swing to either party ahead of the election.

“The PN is definitely not celebrating these survey results, but they do show that the people are responding to our calls for good governance.”

She said that the public are frustrated at only receiving the crumbs of Malta’s economic growth, while Muscat’s inner circle gets to enjoy the lion’s share of the cake.

When asked by Balzan how the public can be expected to trust the PN to convert their calls for good governance into genuine action if they are elected to government, the Opposition MP brandished a copy of the PN’s proposals for good governance.

“This document is the party’s pact with the public,” she said, adding that the proposals remain subject to amendment following consultation. 

“The Panama case clearly shows the need for ministers to declare their assets of their spouses and children as well as their own,” she said. 

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