Friday, 22 April 2005


The Malta Independent 


The process of selecting the new Pope was much shorter than many anticipated. This can only mean that the chosen candidate carried broad agreement to clinch the two-thirds majority needed to elect a new Pope in such short time frames.

This is surprising when considering that most observers expected that the split between the liberal and the conservative schools of thought within the College of Cardinals was nothing like two-thirds to one-third. The most credible interpretation that can be given to such a speedy outcome was that all schools of thought considered that the next Pope, even if a liberal were to be elected, would have found it difficult to depart so quickly from the conservative school of Pope John Paul II and the best solution was to go for a brief interregnum.

In fact in my contribution of two weeks ago I had opined that:  

As the next Pope will be elected by a college of Cardinals who have almost all been appointed by John Paul II who was not known to promote dissenters, it is most unlikely that the Pope`s successor will be willing to depart substantially` from the conservative teachings promulgated under John Paul`s II tenure .` The liberal element with the Church can at best hope that the next Pope will be a short inter-regnum to allow a cooling off period before the liberal elements within the Church can gain sufficient influence in the corridors of the Vatican.

What I like best about Pope Benedict XVI is in fact his hair and his age. Being past 78 years makes him the oldest Pope elected for over two centuries and promises an interregnum papacy where Pope John Paul II`s conservative style will start losing its shine as it gets promulgated by a new leader who does not command the same charisma and strength of character.` It could set the scene for the bigger change needed at some not too distant point in time when a Pope with more liberal views, possibly with a character formed by a third world up-bringing, will possibly inherit St. Peter`s chair at the Vatican.

Another brief interregnum seems destined to befall the EU constitution. There is every possibility that the French electorate will kill the project in its tracks by voting no in the referendum due on May 29th. This notwithstanding that through Giscard d`Estaing`s Presidency of the Convention that piloted the EU Constitution Treaty, the French had a significant say in its authorship.

Even if the French vote were to scrape through the likelihood of the Treaty being approved by the British referendum seems facing long odds and Tony Blair, who devised the referendum in order to avoid rendering the EU constitution a winning card for the Conservatives for the election due on May 5th, was this week quick to indicate that if the EU Constitution fails the French test it is doubtful whether he would go ahead with the British referendum next year.

The Malta Labour Party seem to have missed learning from Tony Blair`s lesson.` The EU constitution is a delicate issue for the MLP who on the matter is internally split into two opposing factions.

There is the KMB faction which is consistently against the approval of the Treaty and would be prepared to stick to their principles even if as a consequences they prejudice MLP`s chances of making it to government on an anti-EU ticket. There is the opposite faction who are pro-EU Treaty and would wish the Party to vote in favour of the Treaty so as not to leave the EU as an open election issue which could give the PN a further advantage at next elections just as it did in 2003.

The added complication for the impossibility of reconciling these two views in one common party policy regarding the EU is that the party is led by a person who has diametrically changed his position regarding the EU and therefore lacks the necessary credentials to broker a sensible Party policy regarding the EU constitution.

The fact that the two of the three internal reports that are suggesting that the Party votes positively for the ratification of the EU constitution were authored by deputies in Labour`s pre-2003 election leadership team, does not help to make their recommendations more credible.

Because the pre-2003 MLP leadership team did not use to argue that EU membership was inferior to their Partnership proposal, but that the country could still survive inside the EU as much as outside it as ultimately the future is what we make it.` It used to argue that EU membership was sure death to our economic development and politically sovereignty, and use to describe EU membership in `allaharesqatt` terms.

They did not argue that lemonade is better than cola. They used to say that lemonade was delicious and that cola was poisonous and drinking it leads to sure death. `Now, at the expense of losing credibility, they have to argue that cola, although not as good as lemonade, is not poisonous, certainly does not kill and once the people preferred cola to lemonade we should not argue more about it but will be suggesting that we should start drinking cola from lemonade green bottles come next elections.

I would have thought that it would have served MLP`s credibility much better if the internal reports were authored by someone distant from MLP`s pre-2003 leadership and that the quest for a positive party policy regarding the EU was spearheaded by the new deputy leaders. Or at least they should have insisted that the decision is taken by the people in a referendum during which, given the internal division on the matter, the MLP would take a neutral stand and accept the people`s verdict.

May be the French would have come to our rescue as well.

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