It is not the PN which lost the general election, but the country which won it. The country won it through the medium of the PL, but the PL has promised to govern the country as a broad-based movement.
The long campaign preferred by the Nationalist leader Dr Gonzi has not worked the way he expected. The polls had long been presaging a PL win, and so it has been. It may well be that a number of voters actually punished Dr Gonzi for putting his party’s interests before those of the country, which had to work without a budget for over two months.
Another clear fact that emerges from the result is that negative campaigning failed to work. Though one might understand that a party that just could not inflict a mortal blow to the PL campaign would resort to negative campaigning, indeed mudslinging, the electorate seems to have gone out of its way to reject it.
The dynamics of the campaign seem to have proven right the ex PN leader Dr Eddie Fenech Adami when, in an interview in The Times, he said that people are no longer interested in the past. Dr Gonzi and his party strategists decided to ignore Dr Fenech Adami’s warning, and they put the emphasis on scare-mongering. Their attempt to instil a sense of fear and risk was driven by polls showing that Dr Muscat enjoyed a higher trust rating than Dr Gonzi, but it failed in a spectacular way. The ultimate error was when they convinced the President Emeritus to break with tradition and endorse Dr Gonzi in the final mass meeting of the campaign, which again backfired.
It will take many weeks for a proper analysis of the results to reveal what actually made the difference, but there is no doubt that a major issue was the proper governance of the country. Even if there were voters who were disposed well to the PN in terms of its economic management, there was a strong feeling that the PN had lost its way in giving the country an ethical and sound governance. The Enemalta scandal was perhaps the death-knell.
Another major issue was the widespread longing for major changes in the social and civil areas of society. The PL and its leader tapped early into this national consciousness and have driven this agenda for the last five years. The PN was a late and reluctant convert. Dr Gonzi’s admission that he made a mistake when he voted against the introduction od divorce again backfired, as it showed that it wasn’t a decision based on conscience.
The PL and its movement now take the reins of the country. The challenges are many and stiff, but the will and determination are equally strong and intense.