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An Opposition in shambles - Edward Zammit Lewis

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), in its guidelines on the rights and duties of the opposition in parliament, defines democracy as the exercise of a delicate balance between a majority, which as the winner of elections must be in a position to govern, and an opposition whose role is to engage in constructive and responsible criticism to guarantee a transparent and responsible government serving the public interest.

Photo: Jonathan BorgPhoto: Jonathan Borg

The opposition in parliament is a necessary and indispensable component of any democracy. French philosopher and political scientist Raymond Aron, in Democracy and Totalitarianism, defines democracy as a system, “in which the peaceful rivalry for the exercise of power exists constitutionally”. 

A major responsibility of the opposition is its duty to itself and to its voters to achieve the maturity and stature of an alternative government. In order to be credible in this role, it must be responsible, respected and united as a political party, and it must constantly devise policies that are relevant to the day-to-day lives of the population.

It is Malta’s great misfortune that the current Opposition, led by Adrian Delia, is not only million miles away from reaching the stature of ‘an alternative government’ but moreover is consistently losing more and more credibility by the day through ongoing major internal rifts, personal and hidden agendas and very irresponsible behaviour in Malta and abroad and in various institutions that incredibly went against the national interest.

The major concern of the electorate is that the Opposition, now in its sixth year as such, is more fragmented and divided than ever before. In many respects a newcomer to the Nationalist Party, Delia won the leadership contest in September 2017.

It was clear from day one that Delia would not be able to unite the PN’s deeply divided factions dominated by disgruntled former heavyweights, who could hardly bring themselves to offer lip congratulations and allegiance to their new leader.

Delia even had difficulties to formalise his post as leader of the Opposition, given that none of the sitting Nationalist MPs showed any willingness to give up his/her seat to make way for their budding leader, until a close collaborator had no choice but to undertake the ultimate sacrifice to avoid further embarrassment.

It was clear from day one that Adrian Delia would not be able to unite the PN’s deeply divided factions dominated by disgruntled former heavyweights

Following a few cosmetic changes in the party’s structure and a supposed new look to the party’s media, Delia attempted to appease his fierce adversaries by appointing them to his shadow cabinet as spokespersons for the policy areas of their choice.

The most amusing outcome of this attempt at reconciliation was the appointment of Simon Busuttil as spokesperson for (sic) good governance.

I strongly believe that the state in which the PN is today is exclusively to be attributed to Busuttil. The same Busuttil who is refusing to shoulder the full political responsibility of the outcome of the Egrant inquiry that unequivocally certified that the biggest lie in Malta’s political history was nothing but a vile fabrication aimed at dangerously destabilising the country and the economy.

The only intention of Busuttil (then PN head and leader of the Opposition) was not to present solid proposals on how an alternative PN government can ameliorate the lives of Maltese families, but of personally targeting and harming the Prime Minister and his family. 

The same Busuttil, with the rest of the PN ‘establishment’, who cannot digest the 2017 electoral defeat in its colossal and unprecedented proportions and therefore choose to continue damaging Malta at EU and international fora, instead of recognising their ultimate failures.

Busuttil should not have accepted Delia’s plea to leave now, but he should have left a year ago, leaving room for the current leader of the Opposition to try to build a credible Opposition. He had a perfect role model in this regard, Lawrence Gonzi, who chose the honourable and proper timing to leave in 2013 election to make way for the same Busuttil to build an Opposition, something in which he failed so miserably.    

The population is being more and more alienated from the Nationalist Opposition and particularly from the likes of Busuttil, who, instead of recognising the high level of economic and social well-being achieved by the Labour government, is undermining the sources of this well-being.

The rift within the PN, resulting from personal rivalries and ambitions as well as lack of firm and inspiring leadership, strengthens the perception among the electorate that the Opposition is unable to face reality and remains a bickering clan of disgruntled politicians with personal agendas in their quest for power.

The current state of the PN is so deplorable that many of its own supporters are losing interest in their party and instead are rightly placing their trust in the responsible and delivering government of Joseph Muscat, which in its sixth year of government, continues to exceed the expectations and aspirations of the vast majority of Maltese and Gozitans and will continue to do so in the many years ahead.

Edward Zammit Lewis is chairman of the Standing Committee for Foreign and European Affairs.

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