Perici Calascione: PN must learn to take a stand and be decisive once again

The leadership candidate said that while the PN had failed to take into account changes in society, the Labour Party had managed to create a feel-good factor by helping business

Alex Perici Calascione on Xtra Sajf
Alex Perici Calascione on Xtra Sajf

Simon Busuttil’s Nationalist Party (PN) failed to take into account how society had changed in recent years, while under Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Labour’s most noteworthy achievement was a reduction in bureaucracy which created a feel-good factor among the business community, according to the Alex Perici Calascione, the PN’s treasurer, and one of four contenders for the party’s leadership.

Perici Calascione was a guest on XTRA Sajf, hosted by Saviour Balzan, where he offered his views on the current state of the PN, and what he felt were the priorities for a party still reeling from a second historical electoral defeat.

He said that his top priorities, if elected leader, would be unity within the party, creating a more open party that did not "belong to any particular clique", and making the party relevant to people’s lives once again.

“Only then can we start to build a vision for the country,” he said, insisting that there were several issues that were not being addressed and which the country had “no direction” in dealing with, such as the environment.

“While development must keep going, the environment can’t be relegated to an issue we use only when it is convenient,” said Perici Calascione.

Above all, he insisted that the PN – the party, he said, that “wrote the book on winning and electoral strategy”- needed to “take back the page” the Labour Party had stolen from it.

“The page they took wasn’t about shouting and yelling,” he said, responding to a question by Balzan about whether he was aggressive enough to be leader. “[Its] taking a stand where one needs to be taken, and being calm in taking immediate decisions when they need to be taken.”

He stressed that the Nationalist Party needed to have a long-term plan that took into account the upcoming MEP and local council elections, as well as the possibility that there might soon be a change in leadership within the Labour Party.

“You could have the biggest weapon in the world, but if the enemy is too far way when you fire your weapon, it will make a loud noise and might destroy everything in its sight, but the enemy will keep approaching,” he said.

Asked whether he too believed that the PN was succeeded in gaining people’s trust before the last election, Perici Calascione said that there “the feeling was there”, stressing that while the PN seemed to have lost by the same margin it lost by in 2013, “the people were different this time round”.

“There were people who came back, but at the same time we had many people who left,” he said.

Balzan also suggested that the electorate might have not taken the PN seriously when it spoke about corruption, however Perici Calascione pushed back insisting it was not the case.

“It’s more likely that the people the message was being addressed to, while acknowledging that corruption was a problem, perceived it to be a consideration that was further down their list of priorities,” he explained.

He did however acknowledge that at times, the PN had emphasised negative aspects too much, while being seemingly unable to acknowledge positive developments.

Perici Calascione was the party’s treasurer, and was tasked with fixing its financial situation following the 2013 loss, a task which he said seemed insurmountable at times.

He said that in addition to the party’s debts, there was a wider context that needed to be addressed, something the party had done successfully during the last legislature.

In 2016, the PN introduced the Cedoli scheme, a programme through which the party was able to collect €3.5 million in loans from a different people. The scheme was heavily criticised by the Labour Party, who insisted that it represented an attempt by the PN to circumvent party financing laws.

“Ann Fenech and myself were the only two people who met with each person personally and they are all normal people. There are no outlandish companies or anything of the sort,” he said, adding that doubts cast on the people who had chosen to take part in the scheme angered him.

On whether he would commission another report on why the PN had lost the election, Perici Calascione said that if elected, he would not want to “wasting a year” discussing the report, but rather would prefer to see an objective study on Maltese society carried out, “even if it tells us what we don’t want to hear”.

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