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The PN Is Dead And Only A Radical Rethink Can Resurrect It

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The PN is dead, and there’s little Bernard Grech can do to resurrect its corpse.

It’s been almost 14 years since the PN last won an election. Since then, the once leading political force has faced drubbing after drubbing in every election since 2008, losing votes every time Maltese voters go to the polls.

And if successive losses in almost 10 elections weren’t bad enough, surveys show that the gap shows no signs of diminishing, with the PN currently 50,000 votes behind.

However, despite being on its fourth leader, the PN has failed to realise that its mammoth problems go far deeper than whoever is at the helm.

It has no vision or identity, expecting people to simply join the party’s cause based on anti-Labour government cause. Its parliamentary group is populated by has-beens with an outdated political outlook that have been resoundingly rejected by the electorate time and time again.

The PN over the last decade and a half have responded to their miserable defeats with a two-pronged approach. Authoring long-winded reports that are subsequently ignored, and instituting a revolving door policy for its leaders, who are attributed most blame, allowing the truly incompetent to continue on.

At present, the PN is always far too late in issuing comments or counters to key proposals, like with the cannabis reform, where it did not even participate in the consultation process. When it does, it more often than not keeps in line with the status quo, choosing to listen to a parliamentary group that is well past its sell-by date.

The party today only seems to take a firm stand on current social issues that, in truth, actually affect a few people. When it comes to critical issues like hunting, overdevelopment, pollution, education, the environment, and many other things, the party continues to play it safe.

Whether it’s to help big business, preserve whatever votes it has left, or simply a lack of vision to propose actual policy is up to you.

The PN once welcomed young people in its droves within its fold with its promises of EU membership and modernisation, inspiring the minds of entire generations. Back then, it was forward-looking and progressive. Today, it’s a party so entrenched in the past that it stands no chance of having a future.

Worryingly, it seems that the PN still fails to really understand Maltese voters, continuously getting wrapped up in standalone issues that crop up in the political cycle, rather than building a credible alternative government that can keep the economy afloat while rebuilding everything Malta has lost over the last 10 years.

In the space of a year, Grech has tried his utmost in bringing fresh ideas and people into the party. However, recent events prove that the new blood stands little chance of convincing the old guard that a change in direction is vital.

First, there was Grech’s abortion declaration, where he proudly told the nation that no one in favour of legalising abortion would be allowed to represent the PN. It’s perfectly fine to have a position, alienating droves of people is another thing altogether.

Then, there was the PN’s bizarre u-turn on cannabis reform months after Grech announced his support for the White Paper, showing the new leader’s inability to even convince his own party on a new, modern vision.

The moves seem to run completely at odds with the younger, more liberal wing of the party, who for the past two decades have wrestled with other factions that simply do not see eye to eye on a majority of issues.

Whatever the outcome, Bernard Grech is the one who always loses, by not providing any coherence to anyone who does not live and die by those issues. Ultimately, Grech is the one who looks weak and confused, despite the party as a whole being at fault.

And, just think what sort of message that sends to younger generations, who have far more liberal positions when it comes to those issues. The PN has labelled many of them as criminals who are not welcome within the party.

By opening up the vote to 16-year-olds, the government has introduced a whole new generation of voters to the electorate, who will likely set out their political allegiance for the decades to come. Losing them will be the final nail in the coffin for the PN.

What’s clear is that the PN leader is being led by his parliamentary group, who are far more concerned with keeping their seats in 2022 than turning the PN into a party that can actually get elected.

It seems that for the time being, Grech is willing to sacrifice gaining any ground with Malta’s new voters and members by listening to an irrelevant old guard that will likely be out of politics by the end of this decade.

What’s far more puzzling is how some fresh faces have actually joined the PN in recent months. Figures like Chris Peregin, Liana Cremona, Emma Portelli Bonnici, Eve Borg Bonello, Michael Piccinino, Jamie Vella, and others have been promoted within the ailing party. However, their hopes for change are looking more like delusions as the days roll on.

Most of these people have joined a party that is simply at odds with their political vision, a damning indictment on the party itself, who can only seem to attract people who are critical of the government rather than on policy and ideology.

Or worse, the new guard are only there because they only see PN as a vehicle and have no faith in themselves to start something new and completely decimate the status quo.

It’s true that many do have the determination and commitment to try to improve the party in the long term. But, their talents would be far better suited towards building a credible third party that could usurp the current two-party system plaguing Malta.

As is the case with the PN, building a party to challenge the status quo is much more than a four-year project, but something that would require serious commitment and belief. Unfortunately, the PN seems unlikely to change despite their best efforts.

Fickle foundations on what binds the PN together is precisely why it’s in a disaster today. It cannot find any sort of vision for the country because the only thing they seem to agree on is that the current government is not up to scratch.

With no visionary policies, the PN continues to prove that it is still not the alternative government the people are looking for.

Eddie Fenech Adami united fringe groups by providing a dream of a revolutionised Malta that could enter the new millennium. He did not turn the PN into an anti-government party that seems more like a pressure group than a genuine political threat.

At the moment, the PN is not the “mosaic of ideas” it likes to present. It is being led by two or three very different political parties, that simply cannot coexist.

Even its name has become antiquated. The word Nationalist conjures up images of Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, and Donald Trump, who, despite having some support in younger age group, are on the whole unpopular with today’s youth. And while current policy has echoes of the three controversial figures, the word’ nationalist’ is certainly not attracting young people.

Maybe, the far more liberal and visionary members in the PN that have been silenced repeatedly have to accept what’s staring them right in the face. It’s time for a radical rethink. If the party doesn’t want to, it’s time to split and start something completely new.

And if you think the idea of a new party is entirely unrealistic, just look at the world around you. Macron became President of France with his new party En Marche dominating the parliamentary assembly. Moviment Cinque Stelle and Lega have made status quo parties in Italy completely irrelevant.

People do not need an establishment to follow. They need a political force with a strong vision for the country, not a party that is a feeble shadow of its former self.

The party is drowning in debt and is being led by a parliamentary group that somehow still thinks it’s doing a good job, even though they’ve failed miserably at convincing anyone who isn’t a die-hard party loyalist.

Sure, some will say that splitting the PN will only weaken the Opposition, and strengthen a government that’s on track for a two-thirds majority, which leaves with carte blanche to change laws as they see fit.

But the truth of the matter is that the PN is hurling towards that scenario, despite constant pledges to change. A new fresh party with a bold vision can inspire countless voters on both sides of Malta’s political divide, with many simply voting for either ‘red’ or ‘blue’ because of the absence of a serious alternative. 

If your vote hinges on fear or hatred of the other political party, then you’re spitting in the face of the democracy our forefathers fought for.

And please, do not look at Malta’s struggling third parties as evidence as to what new political visions can offer. They have failed miserably to transform and modernise and is already the focus of another article altogether.

Dom Mintoff and Paul Boffa split the Labour Party in 1949 over key ideological differences which simply prevented the party from moving forward. What might have seemed devastating at the time, proved to be a masterstroke, by Mintoff in particular, who was the dominating political force for the next four decades.

Grech needs to choose. Either start trusting the new guard, vanquishing the past for something fresh and new, or risk tumbling to irrelevance once the election is over. It’s safe to say the PN will have another’ saviour’ lined up to sit on the poisoned thrown.

Does the PN have a future?

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Julian is the Editor at Lovin Malta with a particular interest in politics, the environment, social issues, and human interest stories.

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