Today, the Nationalist Party rolled out its first batch of electoral pledges. Simon Busuttil pledged that if elected to government, he would improve the way our Constitutional institutions are governed to strengthen their powers against wrong-doing and boost their independence. These measures are already explained in detail in our document "Restoring trust in politics"
- A new Police Commissioner on the first day, allowed to investigate all allegations of corruption;
- A Magistrate for Corruption, who would have investigative powers to focus specifically on corruption without requiring the Police Commissioner’s, Attorney General’s or Prime Minister’s instructions;
- A Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, that would set rules for how politically-exposed people and workers in the civil service, ministries and positions of trust should behave to ensure they truly serve the people with ethical conduct and impartiality. MPs would also be able to work on a full-time basis to avoid conflicts of interest;
- A new code of ethics (within the first week) for ministers prohibiting Cabinet members from doing any private work, and curbing nepotism by not allowing employment of family members in positions of trust or on public boards;
- Constitutional changes to ensure that constitutional authorities defend the interest of the people and not the government. The highest positions would not be appointed by the Prime Minister, but via two-thirds majority in Parliament. This mechanism would apply to the President, Commissioner of Police, Army chief, Central Bank governor, the Broadcasting Authority, and the Electoral Commission.
The PN's proposals will translate into a wider consensus over people entrusted with our top institutions. We will reduce the extent of political interference in our institutions because any potential candidates to head these structures would have to be been approved by the opposition as well. It also balances the powers in parliament, by giving the opposition the power to veto any appointments it deems non-appropriate. With some responsibility from both political forces, this should also induce a calmer political debate and cross-party mediation, reducing political attrition and subduing the “us-and-them” mentality that seems to pervade our political scene from the leadership to the party supporters. They should also reduce political influence and patronage, and will ensure true meritocracy (remember that Prime Minister?) in top Constitutional roles. We will no longer have the blue-eyed boys (sometimes not fit for purpose) holding all institutional posts, and the taxpayer will get truly competent staff to manage their country. Our MPs could work full-time, thus ensuring that they would focus solely on their parliamentary work, and away from temptation of personal gain. Voters could get better value for their vote and cleaner politics.
The fact that the Nationalist Party started off with these specific electoral pledges illustrates the party's determination to clean up politics and make sure our democracy is preserved. Busuttil is putting his money where his mouth is, actually proposing concrete measures that will effectively transform the country’s institutions’ moral fabric.
To all those saying that Simon Busuttil is hell-bent on acquiring power, or that he has some twisted obsession with becoming Prime Minister, I say: Would someone who is driven by a desire for power decrease his own powers in favour of democratic values and a fairer political system? I guess we know the answer to that, so let’s just bury that argument once and for all, can we?
It is sad to still have to argue in favour of these proposals, since they should be part-and-parcel of any European democracy, ingrained in its institutions, its political class and its people. Also sad is the fact that after 60 years, our nation has not yet managed to assert these principles and sustain a strong democracy. It makes us angry that people of evil intent can still hijack our institutions and bring our country into disrepute… that there is nothing the citizen can do because the institutions are in bed with the very evil they are supposed to be fighting. Yes, in the past years we didn't do enough to make our country Labour-proof. We need to do that this time round.
They say history repeats itself. Once again, it feels like the PN (as part of the larger Forza Nazzjonali) is protecting our democratic values and fighting in the corner of the people against an immoral powerful establishment. How would you have sided in the 80s, when Fenech Adami’s PN was ensuring that a (once-again) corrupt Labour government was not allowed to destroy all that the Maltese held dear? Think hard and objectively. And whatever you chose or would have chosen, know that it is the same choice you’re presented with today.