I believe there are two sets of candidates in this by-election: those who are in it to win and those who are standing more in hope than in expectation.
In the first camp is Albert Isola, who is standing to replace the late lamented Charles Bruzon. The GSLP naturally hopes that Isola will retain Bruzon’s seat and if he does I believe he will bring added even exceptional talents to the government. Also in this camp I put Nick Cruz because I suspect he believes he has the ability to win even if the reality is he may have to settle for second. Ironically a victory for Isola and second for Cruz would mark them both down as winners. Interestingly those I have spoken to say that is how they rated them after the Caleta Chamber dinner.
In the second group are the GSD who had they been wise would never have been in the race in the first place. However they are so their objective has become not to snatch a GSLP seat but to stop themselves being shoved in to third (or even fourth) place. Bryan Zammit the Second is the rank outsider but he wants to heighten his profile. I have no trouble with that: a man can not live by pizza alone.
As Danny Feetham learnt before with his short spell as Labour leader breakaway parties usually go unelected and hence have a hard time of it. However the party that Keith Azopardi built and Nick Cruz now leads has a genuine chance not so much to be elected but to force itself into the mainstream political arena.
If the PDP can put up a good showing in this election and push the GSD in to third place then at the next election, when a full slate of seats are up for grabs, we could well see PDP MPs in Parliament: they may even form the Opposition.
Cruz has already shown he understands the right strategy for this election with his statement on the government’s budget which was largely supportive. Of course he will set down how the PDP would govern differently from the GSLP and Liberals, he will offer constructive criticism, but his real task is to persuade GSD voters that their home is now with his party and not that of Feetham. He has to tackle the GSD head on.
There is only one result that will save Feetham and that is for the GSD to win Charles Bruzon’s seat. If they come second Feetham will have failed at his first fence. If the GSD comes second with the PDP breathing down its neck alarm bells will ring in the party’s ranks. If the PDP come second it could spell the beginning of the end of Feetham’s hold on power. In this election the PDP has everything to win and the GSD everything to lose.
I have a soft spot for the PDP and have written here before about my admiration for how in the past they have engaged in community politics. I have to say I believe the PDP is miles from being a party of government and in many ways the party organisation has been woeful – they could learn a lot from the old unelected GNP-Liberals. None-the-less with a new leader they have a new opportunity and could yet become the new GSD.
As always it will be for you, the voters, to decide.