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MW 14 June 2017

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maltatoday, WEDNESDAY, 14 JUNE 2017 News 7 see Busuttil's PN in the same way. The PL's new role as the dis- penser of patronage and its power of incumbency may well have been a factor. For while the media tends to misrepresent switchers as educated floaters, this category may also include a large number of opportunistic voters. Some may have actually feared that the PN would roll back liberal policies (like those introduced in the planning sec- tor) which benefitted them un- der Labour. A dilemma for the new leader The continued ability of Mus- cat to lure segments of the Nationalist electorate poses problems for the future PN leadership. For it would be wrong for the PN to take any of its voters for granted. Yet nei- ther can Muscat take any of his voters for granted. For while Busuttil clearly suc- ceeded in attracting a chunk of Labour voters and switch- ers, by taking a strong stance of good governance and repo- sitioning the party to the left, this was corresponded by fur- ther losses among the original cohort of 2013 voters. Yet Bu- suttil's ability to attract some voters from the opposite camp suggests that he poked holes in the myth that the Labour vote is unassailable. The PN lead- ership seems to have assumed that it could not lose any more from its cohort of voters than it did in 2013. It was wrong. In its desperate bid to drama- tise the situation to rekindle enthusiasm among supporters and returning switchers (along with some Labour voters) it may well have alienated some Nationalist voters. Moreover this sensation was reinforced by the extreme language used by some of its candidates, such as Salvu Mallia. Moreover the PN was not ef- fective in countering the PL's economic narrative. For while crying wolf on an imminent economic collapse was counter productive, as people have to see to believe, the PN did not do enough to emphasise the need for a sustainable econ- omy and to come out with a robust programme aimed at a fairer economy and sustainable growth. But while appealing to mainstream PN voters who yearn for stability is impor- tant, it is equally important for the PN to retain thousands of voters gained from the PL and AD in the past years. And to do this the party can't afford to project itself as a photocopy of Muscat's party. Moreover one may also argue one major failure was to convince more switchers and Labour voters to switch simply because the PN lacked the authenticity to give credence to its good govern- ance pledge. Many voters may have agreed with the PN on the need of good governance but were not convinced that the PN would honour its pledge once elected. It may also be the case that the PN leader was unable to communicate the message ef- fectively and convincingly. Perhaps this may well be the greatest challenge for a future PN leader. For in the absence of an imminent economic col- lapse, which is unlikely, the PN can only win back support if it convinces the electorate that it can govern better and more fairly.

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