How to reunite the Nationalist Party
Three PN heavyweights have asked their party to stem its haemorrhaging before it bleeds to electoral death. But how can a divided party reunite in less than a year? Christian Peregin asks a few of its members.
While the PN is mulling over what disciplinary action to take against three rebel MPs, three potential leadership contenders have launched individual appeals warning the PN not to go to the polls divided.
But while Simon Busuttil, Mario de Marco and Tonio Fenech all agree that unity must be restored, none is making concrete suggestions to pave the way forward.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister appears to be sending mixed signals: on the one hand saying the government must continue to fulfil its mandate, and on the other saying more action must be taken against three of his own MPs.
So what do party members think?
Former PN president Frank Portelli says the PN must stop its infighting “now”, in the little time left before the election. Otherwise, it will have plenty of time to sort matters out in the opposition benches.
To do so, the PN and its leader must get back to its grass roots, he argues, indicating that the problem within the PN is not confined to its parliamentary group.
“Never mind Facebook – try Face Look – meeting people face to face as individuals... it has worked in the past,” he says, poking fun at the party’s recent efforts to channel its message online.
Meanwhile, philosopher Joe Friggieri says that if “the dissenters” feel they can no longer support the party and its policies they should consider resigning.
“This may not be enough to unite the party, but it would certainly remove one major obstacle, and the leader would find himself in a much stronger position to face the polls.”
On the other hand, if they are only unhappy with the leader rather than the policies they should ensure they do not contest the forthcoming election if Lawrence Gonzi is still at the helm.
“Dr Gonzi might still want to make a last-ditch attempt at softening the dissent as he buys time before calling an election. In doing so, he would need the support of the doves rather than the hawks within the party executive, and possibly hire a mediator to patch up differences, or have a truce,” he says, adding, however, that this might already be too late.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia is more hopeful and says an efficient internal process of dialogue could be re-established to ensure everyone’s voice is heard in reaching decisions.
However, this can only take place when those taking part in the dialogue recognise that the final outcome may not be exactly what they want but they must still adhere to it.
“If one is incapable of adhering to the agreed outcome of an internal dialogue then I doubt there is a place for that person within a team.”
The PN, she says, has always been united through a set of common principles and values which are still commonly held by party members.
According to PN local councillor Mark Anthony Sammut, the PN can only reunite if it inspires such a common vision and aim for the next five years.
“It is not enough to speak of loyalty in a vacuum... it is loyalty to principles and a political direction which ultimately counts.”
The PN must fight off the temptation of doing like Labour and promise everything to everyone, explaining the reasons and arguments behind hard decisions, even at the cost of being unpopular. Though that might lead to short-term loss, it would gain more on the long-term.
“The experience of neighbouring countries is showing us how unsustainability eventually leads to a country’s collapse.”
The PN must also “weed out” those elements for whom their own interests come before those of the country and who lack a basic sense of ethics and decency, to avoid a repetition of the tragic-comedy recently witnessed in Parliament, he said.