Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Times: So the PN may stem the tide

Tuesday, 16th June 2009 by Dominic Chircop

The editorial of The Times on June 9 included some very good reasons, not indicated by the Prime Minister in his post-debacle press conference, that may have contributed to the meltdown of the Nationalist Party. The editor rightly mentioned health care, the Mepa reform, shipyards privatisation and the general upkeep of the country as some of the salient reasons. Allow me to add a few more.

The PN, during their campaign, laid a lot of stress on values, undoubtedly meaning Christian values.

Was this wise, especially in a scenario where Sunday Mass attendance has gone down of some 40 per cent ?

Does the stress on values mean that the PN has closed its ears and eyes to the thousands of citizens crying out for a solution to their plight as a result of their broken marriage? Does the word valuri mean that, in all moral and ethical issues, we always take the point of view of one, to the detriment of the other?

If it were so, then some of the PN leaders should be very wary of imposing their personal beliefs on the whole nation! Sometimes, in following interviews given by PN exponents, one gets the impression that we are living in a theocracy not a democracy.

In a rather amazing outburst some time ago, the party's deputy leader said that the PN is not a liberal party and practically invited liberal-minded Maltese not to vote for the PN. Likewise, the same minister spent a lot of his time defending the right to life of the unborn while not a whimper to defend the life of those already alive and kicking. Were it so, he would have expressed an opinion on the valuri of a pensioner who is not given free medicine because none is available. He might also have said something when a poor citizen is consigned to a long waiting list having to wait for years to have an operation in a state hospital.

Perhaps the PN needs to take a long and hard look at its beliefs and also at the make-up of its voter base. It is obvious that during the period 1976 to 1981, the party won votes from the Labour Party. This increased even more under the Socialist regime of 1981 to 1987. This trend went on till 1996, when VAT lost the election for the party. What I am driving at is that a considerable part of the voter base is not Nationalist by birth but by conviction. The moment they grow disillusioned, they just desert the party and move to pastures new. Those who do not go back to their Labour roots will just refrain from voting or vote for a minor party.

In politics, perception plays a large part in determining how one votes. Unfortunately, at present there is a perception that decisions within the PN are being made by an ever-decreasing number of people in the party. Now this may not necessarily be so, but nevertheless, that is the perception. In this climate, it is only natural that disgruntled supporters turn away from the party. And in Malta, where the electorate has again shown that it is not yet ready to accept a third political formation, the only way to go is to your opponents.

One other reason which undoubtedly contributed to the haemorrhage of votes was the escalating cost of living. This is probably the aspect in which the PN is totally alienated from the people, grassroots included. PN apologists, most of whom are regular contributors to this newspaper, definitely cannot appreciate what living at a little over the minimum wage means. Compared to these thousands of our citizens, they were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Such apologists have never had to measure the opportunity cost of eating or, say, buying medicine. It is no use trying to convince such citizens that we are the party of Europe when their notion of politics is simple bread and butter! It is no use telling them that your opponent can offer no solutions; they are looking at you for solutions as you are the incumbent. When Eddie Fenech Adami was elected leader in 1977 he said that our heart is with the workers and followed it up with concrete steps to make it so.

A part of the electorate is losing so much confidence in the party that it is even willing to turn to the far right rather than vote PN or PL. Such a drift must also be examined, thus necessitating taking a hard look at how the party is tackling illegal immigration. Right or wrong, a large part of the electorate does not seem to approve the PN's stand of not standing up for Malta's rights in the European Union. Or standing up to Josè Manuel Barroso when discussing our plight or the lukewarm reception Malta is getting on this problem.

What all the above boils down to is that times change and the PN has also got to change with the times. If this advice is not heeded, the tide, which swept away the PN at the last EP election, will become a flood come next election and lead on to bring fortune to the PL. So, wake up PN! Your future is in your hands!

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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