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Opportunity for PN and Malta

Despite Labour’s overwhelming victory, it would be wrong to say that the Nationalist Party is in disarray. It is in transit from a governing party that lost its soul, fabric and style to an opposition party that has to be rebuilt.

The footprint for the new structure is there. So are protagonists who are prepared to tell it where it has gone wrong.

Several former ministers and MPs have already spoken out. They know what struck them. They know where their government and party have gone wrong.

They also are aware of the foolishness of not speaking out, at least internally, about the ills sapping the party’s natural strength and removing it from anywhere near the moral high ground.

The question is what shape the revamped Nationalist Party will take. It is in the enviable position of having to fill its three top posts.

It can put in place a leadership that can look ahead without having to look over their shoulders to anticipate back-stabbing attempts. It can pick and chose what road to follow in filling them.

Should it go for a new trio, parachuted in from outside? That would have its merits.

The possibility that a leading lady lawyer might be lured into top politics captured the imagination.

That means, though she wrote herself out, that the model of newness is appealing.

It also has its shortcomings. The new people at the top need some political experience, although five years, potentially 10, will be long enough to gain it in time to try to ensure the next change normally due in the political cycle.

But the likelihood is that the preference will go towards filling the posts from the present crop, but making sure that age – at most early 40s – will be taken into account, given that the new Prime Minister is only 39 years old.

The main contenders are already setting up their stalls, or will do so soon. For the moment it looks like being a three-horse race for the top post, but it is early days yet.

The Nationalist Party is being advised by elders not to rush it.

A mistake now might be costlier than not calling the general election earlier, when Joseph Muscat’s strategy had not yet reached its peak.

It would also be a mistake to think that the party lost the election purely because of its errors and shortcomings in office, particularly over the past five years.

The massive Muscat factor has to be taken into account. A major mistake of the Nationalists was to undervalue him, to try to lump him with the past, not recognising that he was appealing to the future.

That mistake should not be repeated in choosing the new leadership. The post-debacle troika has to be forward-looking, recognising that society and the electorate have changed, and that Muscat’s Labour was wise enough to change with them.

The need for a strong Nationalist opposition is of more interest than to the party itself. It is of major interest to Malta and, seriously, to the Labour Government.

A strong Opposition is always required, it being the alternative government. More so it is the public’s main watchdog, followed by the media, breathing down the Government’s neck.

The watchdog function is essential to all.

Muscat has promised that, despite the Government’s mega-majority, it will not grow complacent. In addition it must not become self-centred and arrogant, the key mistakes made by the Gonzi Administration.

A strong Opposition – strong in content, though relatively weak in numbers – will go a long way to ensuring that.

The Nationalist Party has the opportunity to structure itself into just that. If it does not grasp it, it will be failing itself and the country at large.

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