The Elephant(s) in the Room

Apart from the news related to COVID-19, the other two words which you’ve probably seen dominating the Maltese news cycle and Facebook timeline have been, ‘Adrian Delia’. Delia’s crisis ridden tenure at the helm of the Nationalist Party has been rocked by instability, infighting, an overall lack of public trust in Delia, and in the Nationalist Party’s inability to rejuvenate itself into an alternative government to the Labour Party, and into a renewed and credible political force. However,

Delia has had little to no choice throughout the past 3 years but to defend his own credibility rather than that of the party which he leads, as he has been hounded by several allegations of corruption, with the most serious reaching their peak during the past few months.

These allegations have of course been the claims that Adrian Delia was in communication with Yorgen Fenech, allegedly occurring after the latter was known to be the owner of controversial company ’17 Black’, and before Fenech was known to be the suspected mastermind behind the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. These allegations have proven to be only the latest of hurdles which Delia has been forced to jump over (or has tried to) amidst his efforts to reform the Nationalist Party and transform it into a renewed political force. Since then, Delia has already lost the confidence of the PN Parliamentary Group, the PN Executive Committee, and of the party’s General Council after it voted in favour of Delia being challenged by means of a leadership election, as opposed to a confirmation vote, which was the option favoured by Delia and his supporters, much to the joy of his critics.

The latest of these events can be considered to be the climax in what has been a tumultuous 3 years ever since Delia became leader of the PN in 2017, during which he has faced internal resistance towards his leadership, in addition to being hounded by an increasing of corruption allegations, which have hindered the party’s anti-corruption battle cry, thus leading to many not taking the party seriously on the subject. 

Whilst not being effective in combatting corruption, the PN has also been stifled in trying to form any concrete national policies and proposals to make use of should it ever be given the chance to govern, thus debilitating its ability to present itself as an alternative government to the Labour Party. In this regard, the image of the PN being ridden with internal strife has resonated amongst voters, only leading to there being little to no trust placed in the PN (as has been shown by numerous surveys) thus symbolising how the PN has not managed to make substantial electoral inroads.

Rather than having on any policy substance which the PN may have produced during the past 3 years being the main subject of attention, this has largely been overshadowed by the instability within the party, as this has been the biggest of obstacles which Adrian Delia has been forced to try and overcome, especially given that his leadership has been frequently called into question by political commentators, and by his own MP’s.

However, one must always keep in mind that the woes which the PN currently faces are bigger than the one’s which emerged during Adrian Delia’s time at the helm of the party. I say this, as I do not believe in using a puritanical approach to discuss any political issue, and always do my best to partake in the various perspectives by which any such issue can be viewed. Adrian Delia may not be bigger than the PN (ħadd mhu akbar mill-partit), but the PN’s problems are certainly bigger than Adrian Delia. For the PN to truly transform itself into a political entity worthy of being reckoned with, it must not only improve its current ailments, but also be introspective enough to see what has cost it over 10 elections.

Before the PN heads into the 2022 general election, it must first analyse what put it in opposition in the first place. Henceforth, apart from bettering what hinders it in the moment, the PN must admit what impeded it in the past, and this includes reconciling with its faults, including those which go beyond just perceiving Maltese politics with a post-2017 mind-set.

Whilst many voters have been turned away from the PN under Delia’s leadership, many more deserted the party before he took charge, and even more continue to do so when they see the tactical, as opposed to strategic, actions being carried out by the so-called ‘rebel MPs’, who only served to further project an image of a divided party to the electorate, rather than one blessed with unity. Further damage was inflicted due to Delia’s status as a political outsider being undermined, as this has served to discourage any newcomers from coming forward to volunteer their services to a party, which they now perceive as being dominated by political veterans and grandees.

Ultimately, as the PN heads into yet another leadership election, it must decide whether it truly wants to adopt a new and different style of politics which can form it into a winning team, or whether it wishes to continue making use of the same rhetoric.

For this transformation to happen, the PN must be willing to accept that the biggest change needs to come from the party structures, and not from it’s supporters, as is dictated by a ‘top-down vs bottom -up’ approach.  For it to attract voters to its cause, it must be remembered that respect, much like loyalty, is earned, and not simply given, and much like a vote, it can be taken away just as easily. 

Written by: Jacob Callus

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