In the na­tional in­ter­est, get your house in or­der

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

Things are get­ting sur­real at over at Dar Cen­trali. In the face of a gov­ern­ment run­ning ram­shackle over the coun­try in so many re­spects, the Op­po­si­tion is oth­er­wise busy quelling in­ter­nal re­bel­lions and dis­sent.

The Op­po­si­tion has war­ring fac­tions mak­ing bat­tle plans against each other, se­cret so­cial me­dia groups plot­ting, plan­ning and fa­cil­i­tat­ing the demise of their ri­val fac­tions, and peo­ple col­lect­ing sig­na­tures – not against the gov­ern­ment, but with the aim of oust­ing their own leader.

Dar Cen­trali re­ally needs to get its house in or­der not just for the party’s sake, but in the na­tional in­ter­est. The Op­po­si­tion, af­ter all, has a con­sti­tu­tional role to ful­fil.

Hav­ing a strong op­po­si­tion is one of main un­der­pin­nings of hav­ing a strong democ­racy. Not only is a strong op­po­si­tion able to chal­lenge the gov­ern­ment and keep it in check, but it is also col­lab­o­rates with the gov­ern­ment and pro­vides es­sen­tial in­put on the draft­ing of new laws and poli­cies.

This holds true even if the coun­try were to have the great­est, fairest, most hon­est gov­ern­ment in the coun­try’s his­tory, which it cer­tainly does not have. Mat­ters take on a whole new men­ac­ing tone against the back­drop of the cor­rup­tion, graft and sleaze from gov­ern­ment mem­bers and func­tionar­ies that we have seen over re­cent years.

And as such, the op­po­si­tion’s role is es­sen­tial even more so in the cur­rent day and age the coun­try is liv­ing in, in which the au­thor­i­ties fail to pros­e­cute or even in­ves­ti­gate the doc­u­mented mul­ti­ple mis­deeds per­pe­trated by mem­bers of the gov­ern­ment, in which the gov­ern­ment has cas­trated the in­sti­tu­tions that are meant to pro- tect cit­i­zens’ rights and up­hold the laws of the land, and in which the au­thor­i­ties ig­nore ba­sic demo­cratic prin­ci­ples left, right and cen­tre.

The di­ver­sion of the na­tional in­ter­est from 17 Black and all that other nasty busi­ness to the Op­po­si­tion leader’s per­sonal mat­ters, se­ri­ous as the ac­cu­sa­tions are, must have been seen as manna from heaven by the peo­ple in gov­ern­ment, who have un­doubt­edly been sit­ting back and en­joy­ing the show as the Op­po­si­tion seeks to un­ravel it­self yet again.

And some­how, the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion has only made mat­ters worse. With the Op­po­si­tion leader re­fus­ing to step aside over ‘al­le­ga­tions’, it will prove ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult for any Op­po­si­tion politi­cian to make ‘al­le­ga­tions’ stick against gov­ern­ment politi­cians, how­ever em­broiled they may be in mis­be­haviour, abuse of power or cor­rup­tion.

They can now sim­ply point their fin­gers back at the Op­po­si­tion leader and ask ‘Why didn’t he re­sign when ac­cused?’ The re­sult? The Op­po­si­tion ends up ham­strung.

As such, if the Op­po­si­tion leader is in­no­cent of the charges, he had bet­ter prove so post haste, again, not only in his own per­sonal in­ter­est, but in the na­tional in­ter­est.

And, in the mean­time, while the Op­po­si­tion falls fur­ther and fur­ther into a state of dis­ar­ray that it will find ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult to ex­tri­cate it­self from, mem­bers of gov­ern­ment have un­doubt­edly been break­ing out the pop­corn and re­gal­ing in the sight of the Op­po­si­tion tear­ing it­self asun­der, again af­ter two con­sec­u­tive dis­as­trous elec­tions.

As mat­ters stand, the Op­po­si­tion may put up a ve­neer of look­ing out for the na­tional in­ter­est, and it may even try to do that to the best of its abil­i­ties, but this will be ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult with the party as bit­terly splin­tered as it is.

And once Parliament gets back to busi­ness af­ter the Christ­mas re­cess to­mor­row, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see just how much con­trol the Op­po­si­tion leader has over his own par­lia­men­tary group. Will they all toe the party line, or will there be protest votes?

What­ever the case, the re­cent tur­moil the party and its leader have been trudg­ing through is re­ally un­be­com­ing of a na­tion’s op­po­si­tion party. The Op­po­si­tion has given the gov­ern­ing party one great Christ­mas present in­deed with the na­tional at­ten­tion – on both sides of the po­lit­i­cal equa­tion – al­most ex­clu­sively fo­cussed on the Op­po­si­tion leader’s per­sonal tri­als and tribu­la­tions.

In the mean­time, the party has once again laid down the gaunt­let and in­vited dis­senters to come for­ward, much as it had done the last time there was an all-out re­volt against the lead­er­ship.

The writ­ing is very clearly on the wall that the party has suf­fered yet an­other frac­ture that may threaten to turn into a fully fledged break.

The ques­tion is whether the Na­tion­al­ist Party will be able to re­group it­self af­ter what would have been yet an­other mor­tal blow to the leader’s po­si­tion, but which he does not recog­nise as such. And at the rate at which things are go­ing, the party is look­ing at a good 20 years on the op­po­si­tion benches un­less it gets it house in or­der once and for all, one way or an­other.

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