Who should Nationalist Party members support in the leadership contest between Adrian Delia and Chris Said?

Before I write further, I have to highlight that I prefer Said, but I only arrived at this conclusion after a process where I met both candidates and analysed their speeches, policies and behaviour. Others may have done the same and reached different conclusions.

But perhaps there are members who are not sure who to support. I would therefore like to propose five criteria which can help in this regard. It is then up to the reader to decide accordingly.

The first criterion is charisma. Sociologist Max Weber once identified this type of authority as being characterised by “devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person”. In essence, here one is referring to one’s gravitas, one’s charm, the way one connects to people and to audiences.

Charismatic leaders can be democrats as well as dictators. Churchill and Hitler were both charismatic, but they had totally different goals. Once rules and norms start to be sidelined in favour of a leader’s charisma, democracy is in trouble. On the other hand, charisma can energise people, strengthening their sense of belonging to a cause. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is an example of a charismatic leader today.

Is the right way politically effective, and can it be flexible?

The second criterion is experience. Here one may refer to a politician’s experience in elections, in governance, in party administration, in civil society, in political networking or volunteering. One may also refer to life experiences beyond politics, such as leadership in business or scholarly pursuits. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and current US President Donald Trump had no political experience before leading their respective parties and countries. But they had much experience in business. To the contrary, German Chancellor Merkel and former US President Obama rose through the political party ladders before leading their countries. So did Joseph Muscat, Dom Mintoff and Eddie Fenech Adami.

The third criterion is integrity. Here we are referring to character traits such as honesty, strong moral principles and ethical standards. A politician with integrity is active against corruption and favours good governance, transparency and accountability. Politicians without integrity usually face a tough time in modern liberal democracies. Integrity can result in trust and support, but the last Maltese general election has shown us that even a lack of integrity can be politically successful.

The fourth criterion is unity. Some leaders are divisive, others manage to unite different factions, interests and ideas. The former uses a more antagonistic language. The latter opts for reconciliation and compromise for the greater good. Unity does not mean that there are no political adversaries. But it values internal stability over absolutism and bickering. Above all, it prizes and respects the democratic process through give and take, procedure and transparent voting processes.

Then again, unity can be imposed through top-down military discipline. But this type of style is not usually associated with the Nationalist Party. Under Fenech Adami, the PN was united against its adversary. But it was also enrichedby different wings within its democra-tic structure.

The fifth criterion is leadership. There are many facets of good leadership. These may include how one manages to balance principles with pragmatism, authority with power and how to be respected and loved at the same time. It also has to do with how much one is a doer, a builder, a listener and a facilitator of ideas. Indeed, a leader is only as good as the people around him.

One may also opt to look at potential leaders in terms of opportunity and risk. Is it better to have a safe bet or a wide gamble? Do potential opportunities outweigh potential risks? Could known risks be managed, or do they represent a Pandora’s Box of uncertainty?

Finally, one can refer to two words being used in the leadership campaign: ‘new’ and ‘right’. Is newness necessarily better? What does it represent? Does it offer an alternative to the party in government? Is the right way politically effective, and can it be flexible? How about reconciling the right way with the new way?

This would help promote unity, help keep positive aspects of the party and renew where necessary.

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