[WATCH] Rift in the Nationalist Party is an ideological one, academic says

Academic Mario Thomas Vassallo says that PN leader Adrian Delia cannot keep being condemned for what he said about assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017

Mario Thomas Vassallo and Gejtu Vella during Xtra
Mario Thomas Vassallo and Gejtu Vella during Xtra

The rift in the Nationalist Party is not superficial but a fundamental fracture in the ideological unity that once characterised the traditionally conservative party, Mario Thomas Vassallo said.

Vassallo is a University lecturer in economics and was one of the speakers at the last PN's extraordinary general council meeting where he said that the PN must not only reform the institutions of the State but of the party itself.

On TVM's Xtra, Vassallo said that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was very tactful in 2013 and 2014 when Labour provoked a debate on the legalisation of civil unions for same-sex couples, later signed into law.

"From a political angle, the civil liberties were needed in the country but it was a Machiavellian tactic by Joseph Muscat because through it he attacked the PN at its Achilles' heel, ostensibly breaking open the party. The rift in the PN right now is an ideological one and he knew what he was doing," Vassallo said.

He added that the PN was built on Christian values and that this was changing. He argued that Malta had stopped relying on the church for its moral compass and that when this happened, the PN found itself without a natural home. 

"The PN is at a crossroads and it's not easy going in one direction and closing off all other possibilities... the PN also has serious problems of good internal governance and if it were a business, it would have defaulted," Vassallo said.

Former PN candidate and trade unionist Gejtu Vella was in agreement with Vassallo and said that the PN was left without direction after it had led the charge to take Malta to the European stage. 

"After that, the PN did not know what else to do. It had no other strategy. The economic crisis struck then and Labour rode that wave of the international economic crisis. Labour gave the impression that that crisis was the PN's responsibility, but in actual fact, the PN did well. Comparatively, Malta was a success, in line with countries like Germany," Vella said.

He added that in 2013, Labour started speaking about values like transparency, accountability and meritocracy and insisted that the electorate cared about these values.

Vassallo said that while Opposition Leader Adrian Delia hadn't improved in standings after the political crisis that saw Muscat announcing his resignation in the wake of controversy, the PN chief could not keep being condemned for his past mistakes.

"Delia can't keep getting condemned for what he said about journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia a few months before her assassination. All he said back then was legitimate, that the agenda of the party cannot be dictated by a journalist or by implications being propagated by people outside the party," he said. 

He added that, currently, the PN was reacting to the political situation in the country. "It's as if we stopped discussing politics and are now simply talking about the abuse of power. When power becomes an end in itself, to safeguard one's status, that's where we have a problem. This is happening everywhere... people are losing their faith in the elite," he said.