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.
www.daphnecaruanagalizia.com 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