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Editorial February 22 2004
Spoilt for choice
As the leadership race ‘among friends’ enters the final lap, differences between the main contenders, as expected, are surfacing. The original game plan of the Nationalist Party to have as low a campaign as possible with rigid media guidelines and the avoidance of any direct confrontation between the contestants has proved less smooth than hoped for by the party administration. This strategy born out of the desire to retain perceived party unity at all costs has removed much of the excitement from the race. The decision not to allow a public debate, based on the premise of lack of differences between the contestants, is proving incorrect and its justification to avoid a media circus shows a lack of appreciation for the role of the media when analysing a party issue with national ramifications.
All three contestants have publicly adhered to the fundamental party beliefs and electoral programme, making any talk of ideological differences between them appear ‘prima facie’ superfluous. There can be little doubt that when the race is over ideological differences of direction will surface. The party will inevitably be dressed in the leaders’ clothing which will take different attire according to who is elected party leader. It is very evident that all three are sufficiently seasoned politically to realise that the less ideological talk for the moment the better. This time round it is only the councillor’s vote that matters. All are focusing more on what they have so ably done, conveniently leaving out any talk of change less they be perceived to be criticising the Fenech Adami government they all form part of.
There is however, apart from ideology, much that sets all three contestants apart as regards style, attitude and approach. In fact each leader would preside over a different type of government and give his own particular style of administration. Herein lies the key that can decide the race. It is these idiosyncrasies that will influence the final result.
They do differ in crucial respects; a Lawrence Gonzi Government would have consensus, team playing and dialogue as the corner stones of its policy making. The Government would be perceived to be in a safe pair of hands and continuity of the Fenech Adami administration both in style and policy would be guaranteed. His public statement that ‘what you see is what you get’ reveals a sincere approach. Fears can be legitimately raised on his credentials to tackle pressing economic and financial issues owing to a rudimentary knowledge of the subject and a natural tendency to appear too soft, indecisive and not in command.
A John Dalli Government would be highly managerial, decisive and hands on. This Government would give top priority to economic issues and would drive the civil service into delivering Government’s programme in the shortest of time. Government employees would be performance based and all Government agencies would be expected to deliver without unnecessary delays and be benchmarked. The culture of accountability would be entrenched. His published booklet ‘Time for decisions to be taken,’ reveals a sensitivity to social issues and gender equality. He is running the most organised campaign. His declaration, if victorious, not to overstay beyond ten years would set a welcome trend in local politics. Equally, electing a non-lawyer at the helm of the Nationalist party would be a welcome first. On the negative side he is perceived to be too bullish and at times too decisive without leaving room for sufficient consultation and dialogue. This may make Dalli the Opposition’s preferred candidate.
A Louis Galea Government would excel in the vision and the big picture of Government. Social issues would be on the forefront of Government’s agenda and minority groups would feel championed. He has a sensitivity and awareness of the rapid changes taking place in our society. A seasoned politician with the deepest roots amongst the councillors. This makes him less of the outsider that he is being made out to be in this race. He commands presence. His commitment to strive towards reconciliation with political adversaries in the labour party and General Workers Union is perfectly in keeping with the popular mood and his leader’s life long mission. He deserves praise for having the guts to put this in the forefront during a campaign to be decided by a group of persons least likely to want to reconcile with the Labour party and GWU. His shortcomings include his penchant to set up commissions, an endless number of reports authorities and agencies, all of which tend to clog the necessary fast decision making process.
There can be little doubt that the councillors are faced with a tough decision. They are spoilt for choice. As the party secretary general admitted all three have the necessary leadership qualities.
In the final analysis the councillors are most likely to decide according to whom they trust most and whom they think most likely to get the job done best in the prevailing difficult economic conditions.
It is hoped that the councillors are aware of the grave responsibilities they carry at this historic moment.