Marlene’s magic trick
I have been asking myself since June how Marlene Farrugia managed to pull that magic trick on me. How could she have kept her PN membership card up her sleeve without anybody noticing? Did anyone else, besides me, assume that she wasn’t a member of the PN
ore questions have arisen since the current PN leadership elections started. Only people with membership cards, like Marlene, get to vote for Simon Busuttil’s replacement. Who else exactly, I want to know, is lucky enough to have this special vote? How does one get to be among the 22,000 tesserati who will determine the next leader of the opposition and potential Prime Minister?
I used to imagine that the majority of these tesserati must be the PN die-hards, the ‘ nazzjonalist sal-mewt’ thinkers; and of course, I thought the PL equivalent would be among PL members and delegates. These are the people who were born into the party and would never ever dream of voting for another one. They donate their money and some of them contribute their time and energy to the party. They also give it their absolute loyalty.
However, it has been obvious for a while now that among the members of a political party, there are also those who are hardly as loyal as that, and they invariably end up betraying the die-hards. Among the PN tesserati, and I suppose the PL delegates have them too, there are those simply looking to build a political career, who do not mind crossing party lines if the need and opportunity arise. Marlene Farrugia is a classic case, but there are many others, stretching through the history of all parties.
How many of those 22,000 tesserati, who this weekend will choose the next PN leader, are also members of another party, possibly delegates or even MPs representing the PL? And when the PL’s turn to vote internally arrives, how many of those voters will also possess a PN membership?
Just a reminder of Marlene Farrugia’s biography: after serving as a PN councillor between 1996 and 1990, she joined the PL in 2003, and was elected as a Labour MP in 2008, all the while retaining her PN membership. More recently, she broke away from the PL to form her own party, the PD. After people voted for her as part of a PN-PD coalition, she revealed that she was, in fact, still a member of the PN. She still seems to be significant part of PD too, issuing statements on the subject of prostitution among others.
Is that how it is then? Can one be an active member of all political parties?
On the one hand, you have the ‘ sal-mewt’ people, who give everything they have to give to a single party, and on the other, you have those that hedge their bets, investing their resources in several political parties rather than one.
Marlene Farrugia’s name is not the only one that springs to mind in this context: I can think of John Dalli, Chris Cardona and all those other politicians who, as soon as the election is over, stop hurling abuse at each other and continue doing their very lucrative business across party lines.
There is a film I cannot remember at all, except for one of the characters. He wore all sorts of religious talismans around his neck – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, you name it – and would pray to every single god he had ever heard of, whenever he found himself in danger. His reasoning was that whichever was the true faith, he had petitioned that god too, so he would surely have his prayers answered.
I suppose Marlene Farrugia did something similar. She staked a claim in several parties at the same time, securing herself a seat in Parliament. You have to hand it to the woman, it is quite ingenious, and if anyone wants a successful political career, they probably should do the same.
Certain religions demand loyalty, and perhaps political parties should make this a stronger requirement too. Is the man who prays to all the gods ‘Christian,’ in the sense that other Christians would accept? Is Marlene Farrugia a ‘ Nazzjonalista’ in the same way as those who proudly call themselves ‘ Nazzjonalisti sal-mewt’?
Whatever she is, she gets to have a say in the current Delia v Said election, whereas I don’t.
The final question I’m asking myself is why aren’t the lists of PN tesserati and PL delegates publicly available? I want to see how many names appear on both lists – how many people are secretly supporting both PN and PL, like Marlene did from 2003 until 2015?
I was told that to reveal these names would be a breach of the Data Protection Act, which is true, as things stand.
There are contexts however that might require a modification of Data Protection Laws. The case of sex offenders springs immediately to mind,
So I think lists of PN tesserati and the PL, PD and AD equivalents should be made public too. I think if you want to support a political party and to have a say in its day-to-day running, to participate in choosing its leaders and setting its political direction, then you should be willing to make this fact public.
At least, if we forced active and voting members of any political party to declare these facts openly when some start talking about ‘the establishment’, we will have a much better idea of who they might mean.
If the parties fear that such a transparent membership system will not raise enough funds, then we can have different tiers of ‘membership’, including one whose members are anonymous, but who play no active role and have no vote in the party.
What we cannot have anymore is our democratic choices being dictated by a few people who are playing a different game altogether. When we vote, politicians generally tell us that we cannot vote across parties because we will ‘waste’ that vote. All of our votes have to go to one party when it comes to the ballot. And yet, many people have learnt how to cross party lines very successfully the rest of the time. In their businesses and in their political careers, some people have a far more powerful ‘vote’ than we do. We cannot have these people deciding everything for us, simply because we haven’t realized that they changed the rules.
We cannot have people suddenly pulling out PN membership cards, as if it were a rabbit from a hat. At the very least, we must make sure that we stock up a few aces in our own sleeves too.