More people within the Nationalist Party are warming up to the idea of having veteran MPs voluntarily step aside to make way for new faces, The Malta Independent on Sunday is informed.
The idea, first floated by Nationalist MP Claudio Grech last year, seems to have garnered more support, including that of PN Leader Bernard Grech, party sources said.
Encouraged by recent survey results, which showed that the PN has narrowed the gap with the Labour Party, many believe that the next logical step is to focus more on the ‘regeneration’ of the Nationalist Party. This can be done by having long-serving MPs make space for younger Parliamentarians or even not-so-young people who are new to politics, many within the party believe.
Earlier this week, when referring to the “encouraging” survey results, Bernard Grech said that “difficult decisions” will need to be made, without elaborating further.
According to a survey by MaltaToday, the Labour Party’s support now stands at 41.8% while support for the Nationalist Party stands at 35.6%, its best result since 2017. In terms of votes, the difference is of 26,000.
A survey conducted by statistician Vince Marmara for it-Torċa put the Labour Party 10% ahead of the PN, which would translate into around 32,000 votes more.
‘Not there yet’
“We are not there yet, but it is clear that the electorate is sending a message that it wants to look at the PN and that the electorate is happy with the changes that are taking place within the party,” Grech said in a televised statement on Monday.
“I will be taking these decisions, which is the next phase, as every change that happens in institutions. First, we saw that we decrease the gap between PL and PN, we included more youths and women in it. Now is the time to make decisions, and some of these decisions won’t be popular or easy to make,” he said.
“When you need to decide on the road ahead you need to also make the tough decisions. I will be taking these decisions without fear or favour, because that is what is needed so that this party will become an alternative government.”
Party sources said that one of the changes Grech could have been referring to was to push the idea that MPs who have served for decades should help rejuvenate the party by making way for new blood. The sources said the idea is for these MPs who step aside to retain an active role within the party.
Claudio Grech’s recommendations, dubbed ‘Project Fusion’, were meant to open up the party structures, including the Parliamentary Group, to other players in a bid to reach out to sectors of society that do not identify themselves with the PN.
The proposals also included reviewing the roles of the party leader and the secretary general. The idea of having older MPs hold back from contesting other elections would be run on a voluntary basis.
Speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday last November, Grech said: “My appeal was for us sitting MPs to give due consideration to this overriding priority and to consider creating space for fresh talent; and to do so not by way of introducing a system or imposition but by doing so voluntarily.”
He added that no one had ever proposed any term-limits.
Asked to explain how younger candidates will help the PN have a better chance of winning the coming election, Grech said that fresh talent is a key ingredient to making change happen.
Some MPs have served over 25 years
Some PN MPs have served for over 20 years, including Mario Galea, who was first elected to Parliament in 1992, Edwin Vassallo, who first became an MP in 1996, and Carm Mifsud Bonnici and Jason Azzopardi, who have served as MPs since 1998.
David Agius, Robert Arrigo, Mario de Marco and Clyde Puli have served since 2003.
Beppe Fenech Adami, Chris Said and Stephen Spiteri have been in Parliament since 2008.
Maria Deguara has only been an MP since 2017, but at 71 years old she is the oldest Nationalist MP.
The situation on the government benches is not much better. Two MPs – Joe Mizzi and Anton Refalo – have served since 1987. Michael Farrugia and Evarist Bartolo have been MPs since 1992. Carmelo Abela, Chris Agius and Jose Herrera have been MPs since 1996, while Silvio Parnis has served since 1998.
The Nationalist Party has so far approved 77 candidates for the next general election, with the average age being in the early thirties.