That lead­er­ship elec­tion

Peo­ple in the me­dia, and all of those read­ing and lis­ten­ing to us, thought we would have a rel­a­tively calm sum­mer af­ter the chaos and pres­sure of the un­ex­pected gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign in May.

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

www.daph­necaru­a­na­gal­ nstead we found our­selves hav­ing to con­tend with a mini-elec­tion cam­paign for the Na­tion­al­ist Party lead­er­ship, the first time it has ever hap­pened. When Na­tion­al­ist Party lead­ers were elected only by the party coun­cil­lors, their rep­re­sen­ta­tions were made in per­son. There was no need for a big, public cam­paign in which the en­tire elec­torate seems to have be­come in­volved. But now, with the new rule that says party lead­er­ship con­tenders are first whit­tled down to two by the coun­cil­lors, then the 24,000 or so party mem­bers get to choose be­tween the pair of them, it has be­come nec­es­sary for all the con­tenders to hold a proper, public cam­paign to reach those 24,000 or what­ever, just in case they make it through the first round. And they also hope that by means of their cam­paign they will con­vince the ac­tual coun­cil­lors, who vote on Satur­day, of their pop­u­lar­ity with peo­ple and there­fore their abil­ity to win a gen­eral elec­tion (never mind pol­icy and run­ning the coun­try).

*** Adrian Delia, with his flash me­dia cam­paign and his Google and Face­book ad­ver­tise­ments, has dom­i­nated the cam­paign from the out­set. But as I wrote else­where, he started the cam­paign do­ing a Mat­teo Renzi with the suits and open shirts and the pose and smooth pat­ter, and has ended it shabby and un­shaven, sleep­de­prived, re­peat­ing him­self, fil­ing li­bels suits and sur­rounded by thugs, a cou­ple of whom have crim­i­nal records and one of whom has his as­sets frozen by court or­der un­der pro­ceeds of crime leg­is­la­tion.

If he is at the cen­tre of con­tro­versy and scan­dal now, and han­dling things so cat­a­stroph­i­cally badly, when he does not even have a seat in par­lia­ment let alone the party lead­er­ship, how is he go­ing to han­dle the great Con­sti­tu­tional role of Op­po­si­tion leader? He’s not. It’s go­ing to be a dis­as­ter, for the Na­tion­al­ist Party, for Malta and for the rest of us who have to live here and don’t have the priv­i­lege of flee­ing else­where or the de­sire to do so. Put sim­ply: we don’t need this has­sle and nei­ther does he. De­lib­er­ately choos­ing trou­ble is strictly for masochists or peo­ple who can’t live with­out the adrenalin rush of a daily dis­as­ter.

*** Things take a turn for the worse for Dr Delia and his case is heard by the Na­tion­al­ist Party’s ethics com­mit­tee a tad too late, be­cause the party should have in­ves­ti­gated him and his suit­abil­ity at the out­set (and Frank Portelli, too, most of whose prob­lems are very public and re­quire no spe­cial due dili­gence skills).

It be­gins to look as though Alex Perici Calas­cione, the slow starter of the race, might be pick­ing up in­stead – those of us who grew up read­ing Ae­sop’s fa­bles will know that this is The Tor­toise and the Hare – and by an amaz­ing co­in­ci­dence an anony­mous let­ter drops into the Na­tion­al­ist Party’s let­ter­box ac­cus­ing him of the ter­ri­ble crime of be­ing mar­ried to a daugh­ter of one of the Pisani brothers of the Corinthia Group. One would hope that the Na­tion­al­ist Party and its ethics com­mit­tee would have known that al­ready, given that the two have been mar­ried for more than three decades. The party mem­bers who didn’t know it read it on my web­site. Noth­ing more needed to be said: the Corinthia Group isn’t com­mit­ting crimes and Mrs Perici Calas­cione isn’t ei­ther. Ethics sim­ply don’t come into it, be­cause it’s sim­ply a mat­ter of dec­la­ra­tion of in­ter­est. Now if we were to find out that Alex Perici Calas­cione had been laun­der­ing money for peo­ple through an un­de­clared off­shore ac­count in Jersey, that would be dif­fer­ent, but for­tu­nately, he is not the sort by any ac­count.

*** Frank Portelli, who has been go­ing potty on Face­book – he should be re­strained by his fam­ily, who should con­fis­cate his de­vices, for his own good – is now threat­en­ing to leave the Na­tion­al­ist Party. That’s odd, be­cause I thought he left it a long while ago. I re­call that he was a reg­u­lar fix­ture on the Labour Party’s tele­vi­sion sta­tion, run­ning down Lawrence Gonzi, the Na­tion­al­ist Party, the Na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ment and any­body else who wouldn’t buy his de­funct, moul­der­ing hospi­tal and pay his cat­a­strophic debts. I thought at the time that he had fol­lowed John Dalli down the rab­bit-hole into Mus­cat’s lap, be­cause that is ex­actly what it looked like.

The real rea­son Dr Portelli is sulk­ing and threat­en­ing to storm off (hurry up and go, will you) is that he has seen by just how far he trails the other three can­di­dates, that his show­ing in the elec­tion is go­ing to be quite poor, pos­si­bly dis­as­trous. So, this is his re­ac­tion. I knew it would hap­pen be­cause he’s done it once be­fore, in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions of eight years ago. As de­luded then as he was now, he ac­tu­ally thought he would win a seat in Brus­sels and Stras­bourg, and that would be his re­tire­ment plan. He prob­a­bly thought that tens of thou­sands of peo­ple would vote for him as they had for Si­mon Busut­til way back when. In­stead, he polled just around a thou­sand votes from across the coun­try, and clearly couldn’t han­dle it. When Prime Min­is­ter Gonzi faced the me­dia for a press con­fer­ence, backed by all his party’s can­di­dates in that elec­tion, one chair was empty and one man was miss­ing: Frank Portelli. He was sulk­ing. And he didn’t stop sulk­ing for the next few years.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent Thurs­day 31 Au­gust 2017

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