‘I’ve always been keen on politics’
PN candidate Claudette Buttigieg is better known by her stage name Pace, but has always liked politics. She tells Christian Peregin she’s now ready to give up everything to embark on a new career path.
Name: Claudette Buttigieg
Profession: TV host and singer
What made you get involved in politics?
(Nationalist MEP) Simon Busuttil recently said he’s more surprised that I’ve been singing and doing TV for so long because he knows me in politics.
When we were at University together I was very active in politics. I was general secretary and equal rights officer of the students’ council (KSU).
I was first asked to contest the elections when I was at University, in 1992.
By the Nationalist Party?
Actually I think it was Alternattiva Demokratika. Arnold Cassola had approached me.
But you refused.
Yes. Since then I have been approached before each general election, local council election and MEP election.
So why get involved now? Isn’t this the worst time, considering the Nationalist Party is 12 points behind according to the polls?
If you believe in something and are worried your principles will be tampered with, now is the time...
Was it the fear of a government led by Labour leader Joseph Muscat that convinced you?
The whole package. As we were saying, I’ve always been putting this aside.
Who asked you to contest?
Dr Busuttil, around a million times. I think he persevered for nearly a year... regularly. And I mean very regularly.
Then the Prime Minister called me and we had a good chat.
Do you think as a popular personality in Malta you’re just there to attract votes or because the party really believes in your political capabilities?
What do you think?
I’m asking the questions.
Well, some people say this is all frivolous. But if you watch my TV programmes, I’ve never been frivolous or light.
I’ve always been interested in politics with a big ‘P’ and I’ve always tackled issues with a certain depth. So no, I’m not just a pretty face... even though I don’t even think I am a pretty face anyway.
You’re contesting with the surname Buttigieg. People know you as Claudette Pace. Are you doing this for electoral reasons, to appear higher up on the ballot sheet?
Absolutely not. The reason is very simple. You must act according to your ID card. For the past 10 years I’ve been married so the surname on my ID card is Buttigieg.
Few people know you as Claudette Buttigieg. Is that working against you?
It’s a struggle. I knock on people’s door and I say it’s Claudette Pace. But before I leave, I tell them not to forget my surname is Buttigieg.
You’ve worked on almost every TV station in Malta, including (Labour station) One TV. There was also a time when you attempted to set up your own TV station. Do you think you have been successful at business?
Yes I have. Wherever I took my TV programmes, the stations did very well. I think we were a bit overambitious with Max Plus.
In fact, if you look around at the private TV stations in Malta, they’re struggling. The reality is that our cake is very small when it comes to advertising.
You’ve been forced to stop your programme because of your candidature. How has that affected your income? Are you now a full-time political candidate?
Yes, I am full-time political candidate. If anyone has a job for me I would seriously consider it. Joking apart, my husband is trying to help out but I was the main breadwinner of the family, so yes, it is affecting us.
In principle, isn’t it true that you would have been given an unfair advantage if you had continued your programme while being a candidate?
The electoral campaign has not officially started. Had I shown interest in the political field a year ago, would I have had to spend a whole year out of work?
Was your mistake announcing your intentions before the election was announced?
I’m quite sure there are others waiting to announce their candidature.
Were you prepared to step down as a TV presenter once the election had been announced?
Are you ready to give up your career to go into politics full-time, as a minister for instance?
Let’s not rush with ministries and big titles. I’m still at the beginning of this career.
But I think deep down I had a feeling this was going to be the end of a career and the beginning of another. When I was approached to take part in Rockestra, I took that as my last performance. I didn’t say that to anybody except my husband.
You recently worked as the communications coordinator of Health Minister Joe Cassar. Which area interests you most, culture or health?
Culture is definitely one of my favourite areas but there are less obvious ones like health as well as social and family issues.
How did you feel in the divorce debate? Do you think PN was on the right side of history?
I voted in favour of divorce and yes I feel the PN was on the right side of history because at the end of the day, the people’s choice went through, which is the most important thing.
What about the fact that PN took a stand against divorce and actively campaigned against it?
I think at the end of the day the PN is made up of people who have principles.
The fact is that the people made a choice, a clear choice and the choice was respected.
Have you always been a Nationalist?
Yes. The Nationalist Party has taken all the important decisions that changed this country, from independence to joining the EU.
But after 25 years of practically uninterrupted active government, why should it be given another chance?
I meet people and they tell me they want a change. But nobody tells me they want Labour. So I think the reply is there.
Do you think the PN needs to become the change people want?
Yes. I think the PN needs to renew itself constantly. Not just because the election is close. PN needs to be closer to the people.
But in concrete terms, how should it change?
The PN is going through a very difficult time. The Government has been taking care of the bigger picture but the people are saying: listen to us more.
During home visits I’ve had people telling me: everything’s fine now, as long as you’ve come to listen to us.
The PN is currently approaching a deputy leader contest. Who are you supporting?
I signed Simon Busuttil’s nomination so I’m definitely supporting him.
But I hope there is a contest. We should not assume that someone is the right choice and that’s it.
Why do you think Dr Busuttil is the right candidate?
Because he is doing what I think the party needs to do at the moment: listening to the people. He is doing it meticulously. And I think the people out there like him.
You’ll always be remembered for your participation in the Eurovision song contest. What will you do if you become the politician responsible for Malta’s entry in the Eurovision to make sure we win?
That’s the million-dollar question. First I would try to create the same enthusiasm we have for the Eurovision to everything else that has to do with culture.
I think we owe it to a good sector of our population.