Even after all that’s happened the last two years, and all the noise of the past week, the outcome of the PN’s executive committee of today sounds like a loud gunshot. A flutter of wings, a few shocked gasps, followed by an eerie, knowing silence. The party locked itself in a room this morning to think about how things had got for itself and one moment a loud gun popped.

From within the discussion, we heard that some implied they were aware a promise had been made to Jean Pierre Debono when he first resigned his original seat to make way for the new leader. It could have been many promises but one came up due for payment today: to get the seat he had gifted back at the first opportunity.

When Adrian Delia went about looking for his way into Parliament, promises were made to other MPs who were approached to volunteer. I had argued that making promises in exchange for Parliamentary seats was illegal. I still think so.

Promising a Parliamentary seat as a reward, a gift, a currency in a political transaction is a democratic outrage. It demonstrates callous contempt for the value of a democratic vote. It betrays an unhealthy relationship with power and the willingness to wield it in the service of one’s own survival or narrow pragmatic interest. It reveals disdain for fairness and even for the basic popular will.

In other words, the political thugs that have taken over the Nationalist Party have today shot what was left of its character one last time. They resorted to the politics of ‘I can, therefore I will’.

They could. Barely.

And even for them, the collateral damage is immeasurable.

Consider the narrow result of the vote that elected the leadership’s choice for co-option to Parliament. Forty-two votes in favour, forty against. That result depended on Jean Pierre Debono and his wife voting for him, a conflict of interest if ever there was one. It also relied on manipulation of the voting base that Jean Pierre Debono has worked on for years leading up to this point.

Yesterday Norman Vella published correspondence that showed his election to the Executive Committee has been prevented in breach of the party’s statute. That’s the case of someone who bothered to push and at a strategic time chose to tell us why he was rebuffed. There are probably others.

But apart from the negative prevention of potential voters whose support Jean Pierre Debono could not rely on, the composition of the Executive Committee has been redesigned to accommodate nominees that owe their position to him personally.

Because for all the talk about a ‘new way’ and Adrian Delia coming in from outside untarnished by the party’s past failures with a fresh injection of strategic genius, high class lawyering and all the other crap that made it to the iron curtain anthems in his praise to buck the losing streak set by his predecessors, the prince of darkness here is someone who has been in those corridors longer than anyone else. Much, much longer than Adrian Delia.

Jean Pierre Debono has been a central figure in a long list of lost elections than anyone in the country could ever boast. With every electoral defeat, he seems to thrive as people around him assume responsibility and make way for fresh blood which must, however, contend with his immutable permanence.

In the meantime, he holds the keys to the party database, to the identity of people within the party with a vote that can empower him and weaken others. He is the keeper of the seals and the puppet who sits on the throne bobs at his mercy.

This addiction to power is pointless and destructive. The whole edifice is collapsing around this struggle. Decent people have stopped voting for this party or will stop yet. Decent people are quitting all positions within it that could change it back to something people could rally around, support and wish to see governing the country. 

Mark Anthony Sammut today walked away in disgust. He is a symbol of generally held views about the pathetic self-immolation of the PN. But he also represents all the potential leaders that could right now be at the front of the political battle with the government but can’t see why they should continue to waste their lives on a party that seems uninterested in anything beyond existence.

Jean Pierre Debono wants to sit on the throne. He might get his wish one day, but he’ll be king of the ashes.

This is not a phase, a bad patch, a low point, an ebb of the tide, an eclipse, a long night. This is a quivering, drawn-out agony, a sweaty, bloody and muddy death bed.

We keep hoping a hero will walk in with a bright sunrise climbing behind her, blinding in burning hope, brandishing a sword of justice and the winning smile that could wake a catatonic party and take it out for dinner and dancing.

And all we see instead is Jean Pierre Debono, slick hair, sharp tie, specks of sprayed blood on his suit and chin, a hot weapon in his hand, and a heavy-browed look of insanity that would not have been out of place in something by Stanley Kubrick. 

He has just walked out of the building where this morning a political party walked in.