GUEST POST/The writing is on the wall: a triumphant Delia victory because not enough people have the guts to stop it

Published: September 5, 2017 at 3:01pm

This was posted as a comment by Hephaestus, but I’m uploading it here for discussion as a guest post.

The party and the country are not in this ugly situation solely due to the amoral familism of a significant proportion of the voting population – including Nationalist Party councillors and members).

Yes, Adrian Delia embodies this ethos and he is viewed – incorrectly perhaps, but so is the nature of perception – as the perfect foil to Joseph Muscat’s brand of populism.

Subscribing to such philosophy is perceived as necessary to win elections in Malta, which – again – is perceived to be the ultimate purpose of any political party. The act of winning automatically ushers in victor’s justice – the systemic nepotism that favours a nucleus of ‘winners’.

I emphasise the power of perception as it’s such a peculiar and ever-changing object. The viewpoint that ‘nepotism is a necessary evil’ is accentuated in periods of economic well-being but could fall in disfavour in the inevitable bust cycle that will follow the current boom.

In a few years’ time, the zeitgeist will change, and the population will yearn for squeaky-clean, serious and responsible leaders. People will increasingly look for a steady pair of hands rather than a handout. Of course, this is not written in stone and populist figures emerge in tough times as well – just think of Podemos or Syriza.

However, this populist wave is not the only reason why Adrian Delia could be elected Nationalist Party leader on the 16th of September. Let’s analyse the facts – why is Delia popular? There are three factors at play.

1) Following two massive consecutive defeats, party councillors and members demand a radical break with the past, including a leader that can be reasonably projected as an ‘outsider’. Out of the four contenders, Delia is the only one who could position himself effectively in this way.

2) The widespread perception is that lucid speakers who can fire up the emotions of a crowd make better and more popular leaders. Nationalist Party supporters, albeit the less-educated ones, are nostalgic for Fenech Adami – big speeches in front of huge crowds during very particular times – and automatically associate it with winning elections.

Fenech Adami = great orator = he won elections = oratory necessary to win elections = our leader needs to be a great orator. Flawed reasoning, but acutely pervasive reasoning nonetheless. Again, Delia positioned himself effectively in this regard and utilises nostalgia as a tool to elicit further support.

3) Delia is a clear supporter of the requirement of ‘naqdu’ – a not-so-subtle reference to nepotism and amoral familism that is etched in Maltese societal fabric. The popularity of Joseph Muscat is merely a reflection of such fabric – and Delia seeks to also ride on it rather than aspiring to a higher purpose, that is, to slowly transforming Maltese society into a more European, civilised and decent one.

In summary, Nationalist Party members want a leader who is perceived to embody all of the above traits. Some of them will invariably give more importance to one factor over another, but overall, it’s probably a mixed bag.

My main argument is that Delia just happens to tick all three boxes. The other candidates do not. Chris Said, at best, ticks just one. Hundreds of party members, if not thousands, will choose Delia because he is an outsider and because he’s perceived to be a good public speaker. They are willing to forgo his stance on nepotism as a necessarily evil, or simply due to a lack of choice.

They do not understand that succumbing to Delia’s brand of politics cannot be outweighed by his other characteristics that might or might not lead to winning elections. Or worse, some party members – no doubt the amoral ones – are willingly entering into a Faustian bargain, selling the soul of the Nationalist Party to gain a possible, not probable, short-term benefit.

Of course, a big chunk of the blame for this situation needs to be apportioned to the current party administration. The entire electoral process was botched from the get-go. Too rushed. Too close to an emotional electoral defeat that often clouds objective judgement.

Too many counter-productive moves to block Delia that only served to embolden his and his supporters’ resolve. It would have been infinitely better if an interim leader was put in place for six months, giving enough time for more suitable candidates to emerge.

It is not impossible to imagine a handful of prospective candidates that tick the first two requirements without the need to succumb to the third trait embraced by Delia. That is why the most responsible course of action at this stage is for Chris Said to pull out of the race and for a critical mass of PN officials, stalwarts and supporters to stand up to be counted and openly campaign for Delia not to reach the 66% threshold.

Wheel out Fenech Adami and Gonzi if need be. Stop beating about the bush and be direct and bullish. This will abort the race completely. Let Delia cry about rigged elections and the ‘Establishment’ – we don’t care as long as the Nationalist Party continues to represent and cherish its core values and principles: decency, clean politics and a European identity.
I, like many others, prefer to serve in Heaven rather than reign in Hell.

We are too late in the game for half-measures or last-ditch efforts to have Chris Said elected as leader. It just won’t happen – the writing is on the wall and the zeitgeist is set for a triumphant Delia victory. Alas, I have my doubts that enough people have the backbone to stop it.