Marlene Farrugia has openly lamented she is ineligible to run for the leadership of the PN. This in spite of the fact she is the leader of her own party, which she has only very recently founded and on behalf of whom she has secured the first viable pre-electoral alliance in Maltese political history … and two parliamentary seats.
One would have thought that with the Parliamentary platform she has secured for herself and the fact that she appears free to carve her own space in the political discourse, the PN leadership is the last thing she needs. Or perhaps she has doubts about the longevity of her diminutive party in a post-Simon Busuttil political set-up.
Either way it is a bit rich for the leader of another party – for so it is – to be advising the PN, as Marlene Farrugia does in this Facebook post, to freeze its ongoing election process, change the rules of the game presumably to allow her to run, and re-run the election after she’s had time to campaign.
What would happen to the Partit Demokratiku? Would she abolish it, or merge it with the PN? Has this always been her intention in organising the orange grouping: a half-way house in her transition from Labour to the PN?
There is one significant point Marlene Farrugia makes in support for her argument for the election to be suspended and the rules to change to let her in. She argues none of the 4 candidates for the PN leadership are up to the job and to support her point she reminds that none of the candidates took up the PD’s arguments on, say, SmartCity and the abuse that seems to be going on there.
One would expect that her dissatisfaction with the quality of leaders and the absence in their agenda of causes she holds dear is indeed the reason for her own party’s existence. Surely a PD is necessary because the PN does not quite satisfy all that Marlene Farrugia and her supporters desire.
Marlene Farrugia was commenting on a blog post by Norman Vella who was arguing for an even wider franchise for these leadership elections. Unlike Marlene, Norman’s argument was not premised on the poverty of the choice of candidates but rather on a stated desire for a wider legitimacy in the choice: if more participants are included, the new leader would start off in the job backed up by wider support. Norman’s is a noble aspiration. But Marlene’s precipitative commentary is in itself the answer to Norman’s question why brand new party members (or worse, individuals yet to enrol) should be excluded from the present poll.
A political party exists to organise political thinking and mobilise support for a political point of view. If the choice of a leader precedes the formation of that political thought then a party strips itself of its reason for being except perhaps as a personal vehicle for the leader’s election. By definition if people who are not yet established members get to choose the leader, the views held by those people are not yet party policy at the time of the election.
This is the populist way of organising politics. It is the Forza Italia method where a political organisation stands for nothing but the extended mobilisation of support for the person of the leader and where the political program is naught but the charisma of that leader.
By and large this is the Partit Demokratiku of Marlene Farrugia: a party that exists to create the space within which her political persona can exist. Without doubt this is the Labour Party: now entirely politically barren and reduced to be a formidable but vacuous vehicle for Joseph Muscat.
The PN cannot become this. If it does, our political system will be reduced to a beauty contest between clean shaven men and high coiffed women who stand for bugger all.
I share Marlene Farrugia’s despondency over the fact that the ongoing PN leadership race is up to this point lacking in substance especially where this concerns taking a strong position against Labour’s corporatist redefinition of the role of the state as an expensive escort girl to the highest bidder.
But I do not suggest that my complaint ought to be addressed by diluting further the suffrage in this election. It is hard enough to remind dejected but long-standing PN activists that they belong to this party precisely because it stands for justice, fairness, non-discrimination, environmental conservation and social inclusion. That by becoming political nihilists like Labour the PN loses its reason for being, its distinguishing characteristics that voters inevitably rush back to when they feel the consequences of the scorched earth devastation of Labour’s short-termism.
Nor do I suggest that the already incomparably open and inclusive election rules be suspended in order for ineligible candidates to run and take my views across.
For as long as I believe my arguments are centrally consistent with the mission of the PN, I will put these points across knowing, from unfailing experience over my entire conscious existence, that any leader of the PN will take on these arguments and fight for what is right.
I make an exception for Frank Portelli, as one must when the Monster Loony Party tries to prove democracy is a joke. Beyond that freak of political nature, the PN will shortly have a leader who will crystalize the crisp alternative to the soulless politics under Joseph Muscat.
If Marlene Farrugia intends to support that agenda she is, as she already has been, welcome to do so, whether as leader of the PD or – nothing would make me happier – if she decides to dissolve her party in exchange for 10 euro and a new sparkling PN membership card with her name embossed on it.
If and when the leadership position becomes vacant again, if and when she’s eligible for it, if she holds to the tenets and values of the PN, she’s welcome to run for the post according to the rules that would exist at the time.
When Napoleon Bonaparte came back to Paris from the wars in 1799 he found that at 29 years he was a few months too young to run for a seat on the government of the time which required him to be at least 30 years old. So rather than wait a year he forced the government out and made himself dictator.
Ah no you won’t!