AD’s future

The reduction of Alternattiva Demokratika’s share of the national vote from 1.8 per cent  to 0.83 per cent was a heavy blow. It was, however, anticipated and was directly linked to AD not accepting to form part of the PN-led National Front.

Alternattiva Demokratika has been there before, its share of the national vote having dipped in the past – particularly during the 2003 general election. On that occasion it went down further than this year’s performance and reached 0.69 per cent, the lowest point ever in AD’s 28-year history – only to rebound with a vengeance to win a staggering 9.33 per cent of the popular vote in the 2004 European Parliament elections, just 12 months later.

Over the years, AD has refrained from extending its organisational arm at a regional and possibly local level. This was primarily dictated by the numbers of available volunteers but also by an in-built allergy to anything deemed even minimally bureaucratic, as well as by the volatile profile of the typical AD voter. This is AD’s major weakness: it has been ever-present since the party’s foundation and has never been adequately addressed.

This weakness, is in my view, the major cause of AD’s inability (to date) to successfully withstand or substantially mitigate frontal attacks on its voter base. Likewise, it is the reason why AD has not been able to tap adequately and successfully into voter dissatisfaction with other political parties over the years.

Having sound principles is fine, but not having the organisational tools to propagate your views and effectively link up with grass-roots support is damaging. This lack of organisational capability signified that while AD could take the political decision on whether to form part or not of a pre-election alliance, it could not adequately handle the consequences of this decision.

It would be pertinent to remind readers that AD was in favour of establishing a broad based pre-electoral alliance against corruption and in favour of good governance. The basic point of contention regarding the PN’s proposal for the foundation of such an alliance was the need that it be distinct from its constituent political parties. At AD, we were worried that the PN proposal to add AD and as an appendage to the PN was unacceptable on a point of principle and would inevitably lead to being lumped with undesirable situations such as unacceptable policy positions as well as undesirable candidates. We were not prepared to take such a risk.

Unfortunately, we were proven right, for example, through the selection by the PN of homophobic candidate Josie Muscat as well as through policy declarations by both Marlene Farrugia and Simon Busuttil in favour of spring hunting and bird-trapping, as well as contradictory stances on the motor racing track, or Simon Busuttil’s emphasis on the tunnel between Malta and Gozo with which AD disagrees.

The PN, in addition, failed to address its internal contradictions on good governance. Pending internal PN governance issues include Claudio Grech’s amnesia in relation to meetings with George Farrugia of oil-scandal fame, Beppe Fenech Adami’s error of judgement in taking-up the directorship of Capital One Investments Ltd, Mario de Marco’s db Group conflict of interest, as well as Simon Busuttil’s mishandling of the db Group invoices saga and its relevance to the financing of the PN.

From what is known, these issues, did not bother the Democratic Party, but in AD’s view they were a serious impediment to the proper functioning of a pre-election alliance, as they run directly opposite to an electoral platform based on good governance. We raised all this during the exploratory talks held with the PN, but the PN delegation dismissed these concerns outright.

Given the above, Alternattiva Demokratika took the right decision in not joining the PN-led National Front. Any Parliamentary seat that AD could have gained had it joined the pre-election alliance without the above issues having being addressed would have been tainted.

The future for AD holds great potential. In the coming months changes will be made but these will be carried out at AD’s pace. These changes are an essential prerequisite for ensuring that AD can function more effectively and efficiently in such a way that it can communicate better with its voter base.

published by The Malta Independent on Sunday, 11 June 2017