They say that the key to success in politics is pulling off a delicate balancing act.
This can be applied to any major political party, be it in government or opposition. In terms of the latter, we can certainly apply the art of pulling off a balancing act to the current state of the Nationalist Party (or rather the state which it has found itself in for quite a number of years now). Mired by internal division and rampant factionalism, it goes without saying that achieving unity within the PN is of fundamental importance should it wish to not remain in opposition for that much longer.
Henceforth, whilst ten successive electoral defeats can be said to be the problem, achieving cohesion can be described as the solution. In terms of internal divisions, this can certainly be considered the one of the most major woes which the PN currently faces, be it over whom party activists prefer to see as leader, differing views amongst grassroots supporters relating to how the party ought to be run, and ideological differences within the core structures of the PN. The last of all three is what warrants some highlighting, especially given the attention which it has been receiving as of late in light of the discussion surrounding it which was generated during the recent leadership election.
Whilst the PN has Christian democratic roots, it’s no secret that the party contains conservative, as well as liberal elements, with the two often being at odds with another. The nature of this conflict ranges from Nationalists having opposing views regarding how the party ought to address crucial national issues, to questioning the very identity of the party itself and what values it should stand for.
With all this said, what this situation also boils down to is the ongoing dispute over whether one ideology ought to supersede the other, or whether the key success is the party perfecting a delicate blend of varying approaches being held together by a set of values which are commonly held by the internal and external echelons of the party.
It is precisely this common set of values which requires a heavy dose of emphasis now more than ever, should the PN want to rebuild and revamp its role as a relevant force within the Maltese political arena. Should they wish to reach out to the various sectors making up Maltese society in order to tackle the problems which they face in their everyday lives, liberals and conservatives inside the PN much first reach out to each other.
This would not only enable a soul-searching exercise by means of which the PN would craft concrete policy positions on a wide array of political and socio-economic issues, but would also serve as a means to stifle the division and lack of unity which has now dominated the PN for a number of years. In this sense, a continuation of the ‘us and them’ mentality just serves to pit people against each other, and does no political party any favours, let alone the Nationalist Party.
A conservative Nationalist isn’t any less any less a Nationalist than a liberal one, and vice versa. For this principle to be a crucial guiding force which the PN adopts during the next few years, it must also re-discover its purpose, identity and roots. Secondly, it must embark of developing liberal means which can achieve conservative ends, together with a contrasting equivalent. Thirdly, it must restore and perfect its common set of values in order for them to well-positioned in addressing the pressing problems which Malta is facing, and make the Nationalist Party capable of styling itself as a credible and trustworthy 21st century political force, one worthy of being reckoned with.
Written by: Jacob Callus