Political parties, like presumably most other organisations, associations and groups, are not homogeneous entities. They are made up of individuals each and every one of them with different socio-economic, educational, religious and cultural backgrounds and hence with different opinions and ideas. They seek membership of such groups because they share the principles, the objectives and the party programmes towards reaching such goals. These differences are what keeps them going, improve relations among themselves and with society and promote a sustained political renewal.
Centre parties, albeit the nomenclatures of right, left and centre in this post-modernist democracy is almost obsolete in today’s political discourse, are those parties that irrespective of faith, culture, traditions, nationality, societal affiliations, gender equality issues and all the rest, seek to strike a delicate balance in a pragmatic and personalised approach that diligently accommodates the aspirations and the thinking of such diverse multitudes.
Such is the history of the Partit Nazzjonalista in its 140 years since its inception. Divergences of opinions on basic and crucial historical political issues like nationality, identity, language, statehood, conformism or dissidence of colonial governments, independence and all that followed subsequently have been almost the order of the day. Factions split. Years later they re-joined. At times a faction would be in sync with the opposite party. Alliances of conveniences and allusive partnerships were concluded.
But today’s primary objective of the party, and of whoever could ever consider the party as a valid alternative government, is not of a political socio-economic nature – that would be the raison d’etre on a purely political scenario. The objective of the party, agreed to by both sides, is its future relevance and its future potential in penetrating deeper the trust of a people that, given present government political strategies, has conformed to an autocratic public authority. “A bargain seemed to take shape (though that is in many ways too positive a term, given that the people, opposed to the party, had little to bargain with): acquiescence or, even better, political resignation in return for material goods, at least something that could look like implied consent for the sake of consumption.” (Polish-Lithuanian poet Czeslaw Milosz discussing Stalinism)
Today’s priority, as was from day one with a change of party leadership, is the leadership position itself. The various votes of no confidence by the Executive Committee and by the Parliamentary Group, that given our islands’ decades old practices where members of parliament assume a representative as against a legislative role, should be representing the majority of those who had voted PN in past elections. Possibly parliamentarians represent also the thousands that had been advised to abstain from voting.
Delia’s line of thought that he represents the party members and them alone is as fallacious as much as it is apparently factual for someone who stubbornly persevere in his defence statement that concomitantly enshrines the notion to strive towards what is best of the party. Delia is in this delicate instance, certainly not an enemy but an adversary. This brings to mind Andreotti’s tenet that an enemy must be conquered, but an adversary just needs to be won over.
Apparently those who through persuasion and mediation possibly tried to convince Delia that unfortunately under his alleged ‘rule’ the party is doomed, have failed in their mission. Delia disguised his aggressive and threatening reaction with an olive branch. All that surmises is that today the Delia faction is weak. Its only strength could lie in the fact that the leadership team (also composed of seasoned political actors given their party loyalty) is the operational unit that keeps the party machine alive and that might have knowledge that is not accessible to the others. Such state of affairs is regrettably another blunder by Delia; possibly affording a good listening ear to those he co-opted in his stables.
The situation calls for thorough unity amongst all members of the Group-19 faction. Given the circumstances they should speak with one mind. They should in their activations of this process just focus on the party itself with present party in government chronicles as the hazardous background. One may perceive such a united front as some form of restrain on freedom of thought and action. It is not the case. The COVID-19 partial lockdown was not the case. Mandatory adhering to rules, processes and procedures is not the case, even if circumscribed to a moral level.
Moreover, the group needs to become more visible. Party members and counsellors cannot be expected to be abreast unless they are party insiders. The party media has been reduced to a ‘his master’s voice’, in cohorts with third party media and individuals or groups on social media.
One-off press releases are not enough. Drawing the attention of regular media houses is imperative. The group could indeed be engaged in moonlighting and behind the scenes activities in one-to-one initiatives. And yet regular intelligent and informative communication is a sine-qua-non. Members and counsellors engage with society at large. Citizens these days are not all that inclined to be active and participate in political parties. This may also be due to individuals today considering themselves as self-sufficient, better educated and with a wider access to information; and hence could call for the renaissance of the concepts of popular autonomy. As such they need to have access to information in order to provide a level of feedback.
Conspicuous by their absence are the opinions of the rest of political society, including intellectuals, educators, professionals and others. They are not expected to advise but to comment on the islands’ future unless people can at least experience a possibility of an alternative government. The Group-19 needs the services of what Muller refers to as “in-between figures” who in their day to day mingling amongst the people and others their like could provide pragmatic explorative propositions.
Dissidence is like a double-edged sword. The party followers and those who errantly have abandoned the ship loath this present impasse. Most still believe in a twilight of reasonableness. This reasonableness calls, unfortunately, for the need of a new party leader. One can somehow empathise with Delia but Delia must recall that facts cannot be questioned. He acted in good faith, but faced with fierce opposition he resorted, or possibly was advised so, to a considerable number of blunders some of which were retracted upon realising that his prescription would not heal wounds.
Impossible amongst human beings as it may be, the Group-19 need to identify and submit a credible nomination for the post of leader. It shall certainly not be a contest in which members from the same Group endeavour to outplay their colleagues. This is not equivalent to the 2017 leadership campaign. This calls for a collegial decision that needs to be given some thought.
When in 1959 the Italian DC, plagued with considerable loss of popular support and permeated by numerous warring factions, Aldo Moro was nominated as party Secretary (the effective leader). Prospective contestants were vociferous during the days prior to the party conference. But there was also a tacit understanding on the type of leadership needed then. Reasonableness won the day. The party required a notary-like figure, who could mediate and moderate among factions and who would be no threat to any leading political actors. Through time most factions rallied around him and he led the party for long years. As Pope Francis recently claimed political activism could also be like martyrdom.
As reported in the media, the thinking of a number of possible candidates are all auspicious of a win-win outcome. Even Delia speaks this language. If this is the case perhaps he may have second thoughts contesting. An important role in the party is not off bounds. This possible proposition could only materialise if indeed there are no hidden agendas.
Party members and counsellors could still be encumbered in a confused state. An effective realistic Group unity is the only way forward. The Group-19 should just focus on projecting such unity as coherently propagated amongst party members and counsellors and society in general.