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Nationalist Party (Malta)
The Nationalist Party or Partit Nazzjonalista (PN) is a Maltese political party. It was founded by Dr Fortunato Mizzi in 1880 as the Anti-Reform Party, opposing taxation decreed by the British colonial authorities and measures to Anglicanise the educational and the judicial systems. The presence of Italian refugees from the Risorgimento gave the party a liberal constitutionalist character (which caused friction between Mizzi and the Church in the Party's early days) and a pro-Italian stance which lasted until the Second World War.
In its early years the party was divided between abstentionists and anti-abstentionists. The abstentionists would immediately resign their post in the Council of Government immediately upon election as a protest against the token representation of the electorate on the Council; the anti-abstentionists favoured co-operation with the colonial authorities in order to work for a better constitution.
Following the First World War a broader and more moderate coalition, the Maltese Political Union (UPM), was formed but a more radical and pro-Italian group, the Democratic Nationalist Party (PDN), split from the main party. The two groups contested the first legislative elections of 1921 but in separate constituencies so as not to damage each other's chances. However, after elections the UPM, which emerged as the largest Party in the Legislative Assembly, chose Labour as its coalition partner.
The parties again contested the 1923 elections separately although this time they did form a coalition, eventually merging in 1926 under the old name of Nationalist Party. It lost its first elections as a re-unified Party in 1927 to the "Compact", an electoral alliance between the Constitutional Party and Labour.
A constitutional crisis, resulting from a dispute between the Church and the Constitutional Party, meant that elections were suspended in 1930. They were held again in 1933 when the Church interdiction on the Constitutional Party and Labour meant that the Nationalists won by a landslide (21 seats out of 32). However, the Nationalists did not last long in government. The colonial authorities, concerned at the rise of fascist Italy in the Mediterranean and Africa, suspended the government and the constitution on the pretext that government's measures to strengthen instruction of Italian in schools violated the Constitution.
The Nationalists received what could have been their coup de grace during the War. Their association with Italy, the wartime enemy, antagonised them with the electorate and their leader, Dr Enrico Mizzi (son of Fortunato) was first interned and then exiled to Uganda during the War. The Party did not even contest the 1945 elections for the Council of Government which for the first time raised the Labour Party from third Party status to a major Party at the expense of the Constitutionals.
Notwithstanding, the Nationalist Party survived and in its first major electoral test, the legislative elections of 1947, it managed to stay ahead of various splinters that had formed from people who did not want to associated with the main party. In the following elections 1950, a very damaging split occurred in the ranks of the governing Labour Party resulting in two parties: the Malta Labour Party (MLP) and the Malta Workers' Party (MWP). This helped the Nationalists become the largest Party in the Legislative Assembly and form a minority government which, though short-lived, re-established the Nationalist Party as a major political Party.
Two subsequent elections were held in 1951 and 1953 where the Nationalists formed short-lived coalitions with the Malta Workers Party (which, over the years, eventually disintegrated). The Party lost the 1955 elections to Labour and the following years it led the campaign against the Government's proposal for Integration with Britain. Integration failed largely because Britain lost interest after the Suez fiasco and the Constitution was again revoked in 1958 following massive disturbances over redundancies at the Malta Drydocks.
A new Constitution was enacted in 1961. The Nationalists won the 1962 elections, fought largely over the issue of independence and having as a backdrop a second politico-religious crisis this time between the Church and the Labour Party. Independence was achieved in 1964 and the Party was returned to office in elections in 1966. It lost the 1971 elections by a narrow margin and lost again in 1976.
In the elections of 1981 the party achieved an absolute majority of votes for the first time since 1933 but it did not gain a parliamentary majority and was relegated to the opposition. A crisis followed with the party MPs refusing to take their seats seeing they were kept out of office due to gerrymandering. Amendments to the constitution in 1987 meant that the party was voted into office that same year.
In 1990 the government formally applied to join the European Community. A wide-raging programme of liberalisation and public investments meant the return to office with a larger majority in 1992. However, the party was defeated in the 1996 elections. The stint in opposition would last only 22 months as the government soon lost its one-seat majority. The party won the 1998 elections convincingly, a feat that was repeated in 2003 following the conclusions of accession negotiations with the European Union in 2002.
Past and current leaders
- Leaders since 1926
- 1926-1940 Sir Ugo P. Mifsud and Dr Enrico Mizzi
- 1940-1944 Giorgio Borg Olivier
- 1944-1950 Dr Enrico Mizzi (Prime Minister: 1950)
- 1950-1977 Giorgio Borg Olivier (Prime Minister: 1951-1955, 1962-1971)
- 1977-2004 Eddie Fenech Adami (Prime Minister: 1987-1996, 1998-2004)
- 2004- Lawrence Gonzi (Prime Minister: 2004- )
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