“The PN is no more,” wrote Glenn Bedingfield on his blog last week. His smugness may nauseate you, but he’s not wrong. The once glorious Nationalist Party is unrecognisable and appears to be dying faster than a Targaryen dragon hit by a White Walker’s spear.
Each day that passes, the leadership contenders look more like four horsemen of the apocalypse, each representing a different form of disaster.
There is no point mincing words here; last night’s debate between the four leadership contenders was a complete and utter shambles that must have left Joseph Muscat smirking in delight.
A party which only two months ago had presented itself as the only alternative to the corruption and gross excesses of the Labour government is now ripping itself up from within. The PN seems to be heading towards oblivion and the sooner we stop deluding ourselves to the contrary, the better.
But let’s take a look at the four candidates and understand why this is happening.
Frank Portelli fancies himself as Malta’s own Jeremy Corbyn but quite frankly pales in comparison. He last served as an MP at a time when a large portion of our readers weren’t even born and will be 78 when the next election comes around.
Like many people in their 70s, he’s got a rather amusing Facebook page, yet his views on gay marriage and immigration are anything but amusing.
He had two shockers last night. First, he accused African immigrants of pissing against the door of the PN’s Marsa kazin. Then he went on a strange rant giving the impression that gay people are out to fool straight people into marrying them and breaking their hearts.
He’s essentially the antithesis of what the PN needs if it is to have any hope of transforming into a forward-looking and energised political party to take on Labour in five years time.
Alex Perici Calascione
Alex Perici Calascione was most recently the PN’s treasurer and his campaign is going to great lengths to convince you that he was single-handedly responsible for a financial revolution within the party. What his campaign is not saying is that he already faced public judgement two months ago in the election, but failed to get elected.
This begs the obvious question – if he wasn’t even good enough to get elected as a MP, then how on earth could he be expected to derail Joseph Muscat and his entire Labour Party machine?
Many within the party see Perici Calascione (imagine chanting that at a mass meeting) as the sturdiest bet, a man who will keep the ship afloat until the PN’s true messiah comes along. If so, it will be a very bland ship – for all his good intents and purposes, the man simply lacks charisma.
The problem is not just one about style either, but about substance. Can anyone remember anything he said last night? All we know is that he plans some structural tweaks within the maze of PN’s already bureaucratic organs; we have not heard a jot about his plans to improve the country.
He may come without any baggage and keep the ship afloat, but that’s simply not enough, is it? PN doesn’t need a caretaker, it needs a visionary.
Chris Said is the Gozitan candidate and the only one of the four candidates from the PN’s current crop of elected MPs. He was secretary general under Simon Busuttil but was later appointed PN’s shadow minister to Gozo.
Said has pledged to carry out a sociological study on Maltese society, so the PN would be able to pre-empt future challenges and design policies around them.
He talks a good game of how important it is for the PN to have a long-term vision and hold certain values close to its heart. Yet, as the campaign progresses, this vision seems to be more and more about turning the clock back to the past and reversing Simon Busuttil’s more socially liberal stances. Indeed, he spent a large part of yesterday’s debate going on and on about the old chestnut of putting the words “mother” and “father” back into Malta’s marriage law, for all the world as though this missing terminology was one of the country’s most pressing problems.
He recently also made a U-turn on recreational marijuana, a topic set to become Malta’s next ideological battleground. After calling for a national discussion and saying people’s lives shouldn’t be ruined because of a joint, he has now came out strongly against it.
Malta has clearly become more liberal in the past decade and yet Chris Said is hardening his stance on social issues. What exactly does he hope his sociological study will achieve?
Many people believe Adrian Delia could be the perfect antidote to Joseph Muscat – a smooth talker who is equally at ease in a room full of businessman and a local kazin.
Although his campaign has so far been more buzzwords than substance, his pledge for a ‘new way’ of doing politics has galvanised many disillusioned Nationalist voters.
However, his campaign is now teetering on the brink of disaster, with none other than Daphne Caruana Galizia drip-dropping blogs claiming he owned an offshore bank account in which Maltese landlords in Soho had deposited large sums of money earned through prostitution.
Delia has outright denied the reports but the whole tale is ironically reminiscent of Caruana Galizia’s Egrant story in reverse. This time, the shoe is on the PN’s foot. Of course, Joseph Muscat ended up weathering through that storm with ease but the implications are significantly more serious this time.
If Delia succeeds, it will mean the majority of PN supporters would have ignored Caruana Galizia’s warnings, driving a wedge between party and blogger. This would give the Labour Party all the ammunition it needs to instantly dismiss any corruption stories that appear on Caruana Galizia’s blog, including those related to the Panama Papers.
If Delia intends to fight government corruption, then he will have to start with a handicap, one that could prove impossible to surmount.
Whoever wins the election next month will instantly have to unite the PN, yet with every passing day this task is starting to sound more and more unlikely. Fissures are growing into chasms and the friendly atmosphere of the debate was visibly only surface-level. At one point, Frank Portelli stuck his neck out for Adrian Delia over Caruana Galizia’s reports while the other two candidates watched on in silence. Elsewhere during the debate, Perici Calascione praised Chris Said’s performance as PN secretary general.
Would Delia’s supporters, energised by the prospect of a charismatic leader, bow their heads and accept ‘more of the same’ under the likes of Said or Perici Calascione? Would Said’s supporters, some of whom are now openly calling on Delia to step out of the race and accusing him of being Labour’s Trojan horse, really be able to accept him as their leader?
The real winner of the PN election already seems to be Joseph Muscat.