A day is a long time in politics. How about a week? MASSIMO J ELLUL WRITES.
Writing about the first week of the 2022 electoral campaign begets more painful reading for an opposition which is hell bent on committing Seppuku, but without the ritualistic undertones. The once high and mighty, next to invincible, Nationalist Party has been dealt a very unsavoury pack of cards for its first week on the general election campaign trail. Most of it, however, has been totally self-inflicted and totally avoidable. Instead, the electorate has been presented with a lame duck opposition, with cracks and seams perforating its image, its policies, its personalities and, most importantly, its targets:
1. Starting the campaign with a minus 13% point national survey
Such a huge registration of apathy and indifference by a huge swathe of the voting public to anything connected with the opposition is unavoidably the fault of the opposition leadership, going way back to the merry times of Simon Busuttil. The fact that the Nationalist Party did not rejuvenate itself and reconnect with the electorate during its years in opposition inevitably brought about constant, month-in month-out, pitiful survey results which showed that there was NEVER a moment throughout the whole five year period of this legislation where the opposition party came anywhere near the nationwide popularity mark of the Labour government.
2. PN Leader caught totally off-guard on Sunday’s election announcement
Whilst the prerogative of announcing the date of the election is indeed the Prime Minister’s, it was very obvious come last Sunday morning that this was the day that premier Robert Abela would be announcing the date of the elections. As was executed during the previous 2017 election campaign, the Labour machine was on standby with all the branding and street marketing tools ready for dissemination and display. Result? Labour again managed to monopolise the prime sites nationwide. Most importantly, whilst Robert Abela was outlining his vision for a Malta after a Labour win, Bernard Grech continued harping on a by-now obsolete script hours after Abela had officially announced the election date.
Bernard Grech continued harping on a by-now obsolete script hours after Abela had officially announced the election date.
3. The Pieta rally showing warts and all
The opposition leader tried to instil a sense of purpose on Sunday by trying to gain the upper hand in the staging of campaign events. The PN held a hastily organised Peta rally which, unfortunately, projected to all viewers the amateur state of organisation of such a strategic event. The rally delivered absolutely nothing which gave brownie points to Bernard Grech but rather showed how technically, logistically and delivery-wise, the Nationalist Party were miles behind a sleek Labour operation. Ironically, for people who are into politics, the rally was an immediate eye opener for things yet to come since quite an extensive amount of PN front liners and representatives were totally absent from the event.
4. A full day to decide if Bernard Grech would contest the fifth electoral district or not
This fiasco of the choice of Bernard Grech’s contesting on which district drove home the perception that the Nationalist Party is uncertain of even the most basic of things related to the election campaign. Uncertainty in politics is a tried and tested method ensuring distrust, especially by an electorate who are certainly wary on who to trust to run their country after a crushing pandemic and with international economic scenarios which might hamper their country’s growth. Additionally, this incident showed all and sundry that the opposition leadership does not even have a rapid rebuttal team in place in order to contain and convince arguments throughout the campaign.
5. Promising already promised promises without knowing the promises in depth
Both parties started showering the electorate with electoral promises; Labour’s promises to date are mostly a continuation of the massive initiatives throughout Malta and Gozo which have been evident in these last two legislatures. The promised concepts were professionally delivered by well-versed government and party representatives after being officially announced by the Labour leader. On the other hand, the Nationalist Party, for the umpteenth time, started promising electoral pledges which have either been already executed by the government or are in the process of being finalised by the same government. Other electoral pledges were announced, most of which ended up not being properly conveyed to the general public simply because opposition speakers were not properly versed on the subject matter. Also, the aura of accountability and cost-benefit analysis was seamlessly underlined with Labour Party electoral pledges, whilst the Nationalist Party electoral pledges again failed this very important test.
6. Four PN heavyweights throw in the towel
And then came the inevitable nail in the coffin for the opposition. The Nationalist Party has been unsuccessfully trying to project itself as a unified party throughout the whole legislature. On the contrary, the order of the day within the opposition party was more akin to countless coups, Machiavellian tomfoolery, auto goals and friendly-fire casualties. The notorious hijacking of this once all-powerful political party by a classist and egocentric clique has been dwelt upon at length in many an article. Three different opposition leaders in just five years is merely the tip of the iceberg when understanding how much the Nationalist Party has been left to implode and disintegrate, with endless snipering by one PN faction against another. In just one morning, ex-PN general secretary and Qormi heavyweight Clyde Puli, together with heavyweight MP Kirstie Debono and long-serving MP Mario Galea announced that they would not seek re-election.
To ensure salt on the wound, when PN leader Grech commented that this was a mutually agreed-to initiative giving space to new blood, Mario Galea not only slammed Grech’s comments but also stated that he had been given a hell of a time by the PN leader’s cronies within the PN structure. When a political party is consistently trailing behind in the polls, it simply does not afford losing anyone at all, let alone three heavyweights so late in the day. But not to worry: Kirsty Debono was replaced by the PN leader by the ‘young’ and ‘new blood’ candidature of Beppe Fenech Adami, whilst Mario Galea was replaced in one of the most difficult PN districts by the sister of Fascist sympathiser Fr. David Muscat who was just a few days ago charged in court for hate speech.
In that same afternoon, another heavyweight announced his non-contestation. Opposition MP Claudio Grech has for a very long time been seen as leadership material and was touted for the PN leadership position when Simon Busuttil resigned and when the PN establishment forced the ousting of Adrian Delia. Ostensibly, the mutually agreed excuse given by the Party for such a dramatic announcement was also that of making way for new blood within the Party. Total crap, I say. Claudio Grech is 47 years old. The PN leader is older than him. Both PN Deputy Leaders are older than him. Nearly all the so-called Blue Hero MPs are older than Claudio. For Christ’s sake, Maria Deguara is 73 years old!
7. Bare faced lying or being economical with the truth
The resignation of four heavyweights in one day and the possibility of more to come has lifted the curtain on how disastrous things really are within the Nationalist Party. It has also highlighted the statements uttered related to Mario Galea’s resignation and Claudio Grech’s non-contestation as being heavily interpolated and very far from the truth. These circumstances will inevitably bear dire consequences at the polling booths come next month for the PN. Mario Galea’s commitment to his district and his gentlemanly manner of doing politics is legendary and need no boost. It is indeed sad and disgusting to learn that PN officials close to the leader attacked this gentleman with his mental illness. These are lines that should never be crossed in politics. These are lines that the PN establishment that has hijacked the party has been repetitively crossing without a single bat of an eyelid. Eventually the chickens will come home to roost, come Election Day.
With regards to Claudio Grech’s statements, nothing can be further from the truth. As already stated, Grech has always been seen as leadership material. He is a very intelligent strategist. He knows full well that the coming election results will depict a total rout for the Nationalist Party under this present leadership. And because he is intelligent and crafty, he does not want to be associated with the dismal numbers that the Party will pull, whilst still being seen as the harbinger of great initiatives and pledges for the electoral manifesto. It seems only inevitable that once the knives are out for the ritual cleaning of those responsible for yet another huge PN defeat at the polls, Claudio Grech will bounce back as a potential saviour, unless Roberta Metsola or Joe Giglio have anything to say on this matter.
8. And Next Week?
I am sure that the Nationalist Party will be committing another seven deadly mistakes by this week end. There will thus definitely be ample material for a follow up on this article. But let us let time take its own course. As is commonly stated, a day is a long time in politics.