At the time when it is most needed, our parliamentary opposition is not merely divided: it is leaderless, bloodied by internecine conflict, bereft of hope, unable to sustain its own existence let alone fulfil its function.

Out of a desire for a silver lining at the edge of an overcast sky, some have argued that it didn’t matter that our opposition is as useful as a toothpick in a quarry. After all, the real opposition was out on the streets and so effective it has been.

Joseph Muscat was pushed out of power in spite of Adrian Delia. People stood up in their tens of thousands and demanded his resignation as often as it was necessary to get it. As the ombudsman put it, a newly galvanised and organised civil society was providential for our democracy.

It was. But this is a warning to the smug. The intention of protesters is primarily to reach a state of play where protests are not necessary.

That is the opposite of offering to have permanent street protests and for civil society organisations to permanently replace constitutional opposition.

There were two reasons to march in 2019. First was the government’s failure to stay clear of crime, to serve the interests of all people, not the few, to protect the life of a journalist and so on.

The second was that the institutions that were supposed to keep the government in check and prevent them from failing in their duty, failed in theirs: the judiciary, the police, the prosecutor but also parliament and, in particular, the parliamentary opposition.

Protesters in the streets of Valletta in 2019 did not propose to take over the government’s job of running the country.

They demanded the government runs the country in conformity with objective standards set in the laws of the land. Similarly, they demanded judges, prosecutors and policemen live up to their oaths of office.

No one is volunteering to replace parliament and its function of contrasting government, challenging it, scrutinising its conduct and demanding accountability.

There were a number of reasons we at Repubblika felt we needed to openly declare we had no intention of setting up a political party.

Firstly, some fully expected us to become a political party. Many who joined or supported the 2019 protests did so because they found that no political party adequately represented their strongly held views. Some hoped Repubblika would become the party they wanted to back.

Secondly, we as members of Repubblika feel there is an important role in a democracy for civil-society activism.

We do not propose that this should replace the function of political parties. But we do not accept that political parties have a monopoly on the political landscape.

Thirdly, opposition to corruption and a demand for justice and the rule of law is not a programmatic and partisan vocation. Because Repubblika’s members renounce the right to seek elected office, they retain the credentials to secure a wide consensus across all the community.

This is why Repubblika stood with a coalition of protesters ranging from trade unions to left-wing activists to media houses including this newspaper. Fighting corruption is the preserve of no single political ideology, it is the duty of everyone.

Our commitment to take to the streets to protest when we have to is a commitment to our democracy not an offer to supplant it- Manuel Delia

We are determined to preserve the credentials that allow us to work with all people of goodwill in the community, including people who are not keen to find themselves propping up a political party.

But just because we are not volunteering for elected office does not mean we are disdainful of those who do. On the contrary, we clamour in the streets for a functioning democracy, transparently run, honest and democratic political parties and a strong opposition. We demand that members of parliament fulfil their duties according to the law and their conscience as much as we expect the same of government ministers, judges, prosecutors and policemen.

As activists, we have no wish to have to take to the streets every time the government oversteps the mark. We look forward to a time when parliament and all other institutions act with determination and effectiveness when that happens and protests would be entirely unnecessary.

We are as desirous of political stability and calm political engagement as all the economic actors in our community would rather think of their businesses and the welfare of their employees rather than whether criminals with political power can remain in office protected by impunity.

We want nothing better than to go back to our lives with the confidence that we are living in a functioning democracy, equipped with the checks and balances it needs to weed out crime and corruption.

Our commitment to take to the streets to protest when we have to is a commitment to our democracy not an offer to supplant it.

We would call on our community not to look away with indifference at the failure of our parliament and the ineffective blubber that still calls itself the opposition within it.

We would call on our community not to assume that street protests will be enough to hold back ‘a thousand years of Labour’. They won’t. A Labour Party unchallenged by rivals and undisturbed by viable

alternatives will be corrupted absolutely by the absolute guarantee of the perpetuity of its power. No civil society is strong enough to mitigate that.

Let no one yearn for permanent revolution just because the 2019 protests were both successful and correct. Yearn instead for a functioning democracy.

Demand an effective opposition. Support the honest folks who stand for office. Vote. And when they get it wrong, we’ll take to the streets again.

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