Pro-EU alliance emerging:
PN, AD, UHM and COC to join forces for a 'YES' block vote. PN and AD fail to deny claims of joining forces in a coalition for the forthcoming general elections.

By Paul Cachia
Published January 8th 2003 in Di-ve News

Valletta, MALTA (di-ve news) -- A campaign on Malta’s entry in the European Union (EU) will put political opponents and organisations in a position where they have to campaign together. The forthcoming campaigns and the ensuing political events are likely to make for some very strange bedfellows.

Alternattiva Demokratika (AD), the Nationalist Party (PN), the Union Haddiema Maghqudin (UHM) and Chamber of Commerce (COC) laid out the groundwork for a historical political development -- the formation of a pro-EU alliance ahead of what most agree will be the biggest political decision of a generation.

Following his appeal to all pro-EU organisations to form an alliance, AD Chairperson Harry Vassallo told di-ve news that “we have met with and discussed the issue with the UHM, the Chamber of Commerce and the Nationalist Party in view of the critical referendum vote we all face”.

The question of what form the alliance between the PN and AD will take and to what extent the different organisations will co-operate, remained unanswered.

However, di-ve news learnt that PN and AD discussed the possibility to join forces in a political coalition, ahead of the forthcoming referendum and general election.

Writing in “The Times” last May 9, 2002, Dr. Vassallo said, “At this time we are offered no choice but to support the Nationalist Party because of the EU membership issue."

Asked by di-ve news whether the PN would consider this proposal, secretary-general Joe Saliba failed to deny the claim that two parties are discussing this new political co-operation venture, by simply saying that “political strategies are confidential matters”.

Mr. Saliba said that he is in favour of the formation of a pro EU-alliance.

“Pro-European Union factions, be they political parties, unions, employers’ organisations, students’ bodies, journalists, opinion makers, voluntary organisations representing different sectors from all walks of life, intellectuals as well as all those individuals who can offer a contribution even though they do not belong to any organization, should take an active part in the referendum campaign. They should endeavour to present the electorate with a coherent and focused apolitical message in the run up to the referendum”.

However, the PN said it intends to "depoliticise" the referendum vote. Mr. Saliba told di-ve news: “as far as the referendum is concerned partisan politics should be strictly kept out of the issue and all those in favour of Malta’s membership should join forces in a national movement to promote membership. As Malta’s European membership is a national issue the matter should be treated solely on a national level”.

Despite continuous appeals by the Prime Minister in the last PN general council and the budget speech, to ‘the many people with the MLP who were pro-EU to show courage’, di-ve news learnt that there is a mounting concern in PN circles that the party would not be able to attract the votes of these people. This is where AD features in the equation

Asked about the pro-EU coalition with the PN, Dr. Vassallo told di-ve news, “Alternattiva Demokratika does not exclude any possibility a priori but such does not depend solely on AD”.

In fact, a faction of the PN is convinced that the party can win the majority without the Green Party's contribution. This faction is reluctant to join forces with AD in the next general election.

Speaking to Malta Today, Dr. Vassallo said, "If they valued the opportunity of EU membership for Malta, getting AD into parliament has become crucial."

For AD, the aim of the alliance would be to transfer second vote preferences from the PN to AD. In this manner, AD would have a better chance of obtaining a parliamentary seat, especially in the PN’s stronghold tenth district, which is contested by the AD chairperson himself, who was already a local councillor in Sliema.