The PN leadership is set to be a two-horse race, with lawyer Bernard Grech being the only candidate to step up to the plate and face off against the incumbent Adrian Delia.
So, you’re probably asking why Bernard? What makes him the perfect fit? More importantly, who is he and what does he stand for?
The PN leader hopeful has been tight-lipped on matters of policy, but he often takes to his Facebook page to share his opinions and has made numerous cameos on Maltese television over the years.
So, without further ado, here’s what we know about Bernard Grech so far:
1. He views political parties as a “means to an end”.
Following the affirmation of his candidature, Grech took to Facebook with an all-encompassing mission statement, detailing his vision for the future of the PN.
In his post, Grech stressed that a political party should be seen as a means to an end and not as an end in itself. In not so many words, Grech implied that the PN should not be a self-serving entity, but must focus on serving the people, in the interest of common good and common heritage.
2. He actively campaigned against divorce in the 2012 referendum but has since changed his opinion.
One of Bernard Grech’s few claims to fame was his short stint at the forefront of the anti-divorce campaign before a referendum which split public opinion back in 2012. On the basis of that campaign, he’s built a reputation as an ideologically conservative lawyer who seemingly shunned liberal ideals.
However, since then, Grech seems to have changed his opinion. “[My opinion] has changed on two levels,” Grech said in an interview with The Malta Independent. “It changed on a personal level where I, a year to a year and a half after the referendum, began as a lawyer filing divorce cases.”
“I was never absolutely against someone starting a new life, remarrying, but yes because it was perceived that I was a part of that campaign then yes, I was perceived as being anti-divorce. But that was my opinion that day. Everyone has their own walk in life, and to change one’s understanding from one day to the next I think that person would not be honest with themselves.”
3. He’s open to a conversation on abortion.
In an interview with Fr Joe Borg during a radio interview on the Catholic archdiocese’s station, Grech answered the question “If people tell you they ‘want abortion’ do you just go ahead with that?” with a somewhat unconventional response for an aspiring Maltese politician.
“We’re talking about principles, and abortion is one such principle that has to be discussed. If people say they ‘want abortion’ you are obliged to discuss it. You don’t just decide, or let others decide for you; however, you are obliged to discuss it – and issue a position on what people think… Back in the day, the Church felt it had the key to the truth. Out there, people think differently: we have to recognise that reality.”
Grech did not provide an outright rejection, nor an outright affirmation, but it may be argued that his handling of the question was quite refreshing.
4. He spoke out against the misuse of public funds by ministers for social media.
Grech was vocal on a report by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler which found “widespread misuse of public resources” by ministers and parliamentary secretaries.
Grech openly criticised government ministers for misappropriating public funds to boost their personal Facebook pages, calling it “fraud” and a “robbery”.
The damning report was triggered by a complaint filed by Lovin Malta after it became clear that ministers were using public funds and resources to boost their own Facebook pages instead of setting up official ministry pages.
In the meantime, Lovin Malta set up a campaign to ensure that government ministers refund taxpayers any money they spent on their own self-promotion. Check it out here.
5. He’s been vocal in the movement demanding justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The PN leader hopeful has also long called for justice in the Daphne Caruana Galizia case, making his opinion known on corruption and the state of affairs in the country several times.
Grech was even invited to be a speaker at the first monthly vigil for Caruana Galizia since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Malta. In his speech, he likened anyone who “somehow still thinks we live in a normal country” to Flat Earthers and called on the Labour Party to rid itself of the corruption which has infiltrated the party.
“Without truth, there can be no justice. Without justice, this beloved nation cannot heal,” Grech added.
6. He believes authorities should intervene to control rent prices.
Grech has been highly critical of the way rent and property prices have exploded over recent years in Malta. In an interview with ‘Il-Mument’, Grech suggested that authorities should intervene to ensure that price hikes in the local market are controlled before matters get worse.
However, he excluded price determination as a way forward, insisting that there are better ways to address the issue.
Among other solutions, Grech mentioned that the government should make better use of abandoned and vacant properties around Malta as well as encouraging financial incentives and better thought out subsidy schemes.
7. He hasn’t often publicly criticised Adrian Delia.
Bernard Grech has also received early criticism for being a person who is linked to a plot to remove Delia, closely associated with the so-called rebel MPs. However, he has barely ever publicly criticised Delia and in an interview with the Malta Independent, he said that he does not swear allegiance to any faction within the Nationalist Party, but his aim is to unite the party.
He was recently appointed to a PN policy forum to propose environmental policies and was shortlisted by the party as one of several new faces who will contest the next election.
During an interview on 103.FM, Grech said he was ready to take on the role of “il-bidillu”, literally translated as “caretaker” or “janitor”, if that’s what the PN required of him.
“I never excluded anything… does the country need me? At this moment in time, I think it needs to be someone who can bring unity, a certain attitude, a certain mentality to the table. But everyone has to unite behind this person,” Grech said.
8. He recently called for the protection of journalists.
In a reaction to Transport Minister’s Ian Borg’s “arrogant” reply towards a Net News journalist, Grech said that journalists should be respected, elevated, and properly protected as one of the key pillars of democracy.
Grech said that journalism should be looked at as an ‘institution’ which is afforded the requisite protection in order for a democracy to function properly.
Furthermore, he insisted that the PN should be committed to elevating the status of journalists in this country and ensuring that they receive due recognition.
9. He believes PN could actually win the next election.
Asked about PN’s chances of winning the next general election Grech told the Malta Independent:
“I believe that it is not impossible for the PN to again appeal to the electorate and also convince the electorate that with the strength of the Nationalists and others of different political standings and ideologies, the PN can reach the point where it will be an alternative government which people can consider for the next general election.”