There is still some time before the elections; anything up to approximately 17 months. A period long enough for much to change. Opinion polls indicate a shift from the GSD in favour of the GSLP/Liberal Alliance. Anecdotal evidence, in the form of general comment and sentiment, is also indicative that this trend continues to gain momentum. There is one major uncertainty that could derail this process. No one yet knows who will lead the GSLP/Liberal alliance into the next election.
The choices are known, either Joe Bossano decides to reverse his decision to retire as party leader or he is succeeded by one of Gilbert Licudi or Fabian Picardo. Alternatively, the alliance may decide that its leader will be Joseph Garcia, the leader of the Liberal party. That the right person becomes party leader is of the utmost importance. It will have a direct impact on the electoral popularity of the GSLP/Liberal alliance and give impetus to changing opinion favourable to the GSLP/Liberal alliance. If the polls are right it will determine also who will be the next Chief Minister.
The perception and widely held view is that Fabian Picardo will be Joe Bossano's successor. He is generally seen as having both the required intelligence and charisma. Sometimes, however, the obvious choice is neither the right choice nor the outcome that in fact occurs. Intervening events and circumstances can militate towards the obvious candidate becoming the quiet and understated alternative choice.
One has to look no further than to the GSD. Probably its most unlikely and least known person at the time, Peter Caruana, became its leader and subsequently Chief Minister. The obvious choice at the time was not him. It was Peter Montegriffo. It was extraneous circumstances that conspired and favoured Peter Caruana. Circumstances that were totally unrelated to politics. So far as is publicly known, these were connected to Mr Montegriffo's professional obligations.
It is possible that history may repeat itself. If it were to, then Joe Bossano will either have the opportunity to continue for a short while or the opportunity will be grasped by Gilbert Licudi. Gilbert is known for both his intellect and his calm analysis and handling of situations.
The temptation for Joe Bossano to continue must be enormous. The polls indicate that the GSLP/Liberal alliance would win with him as leader despite the historical baggage that he carries. Joe Bossano's legacy would be wiped clean if the alliance were to win under his leadership. He must yearn for this, anyone would. Additionally, people have come to the realisation that he will not repeat the mistakes he made in the past. On the issue of tobacco, the image of Gibraltar has certainly improved but only because the methodology by which tobacco is smuggled has changed. The fact that the trade continues is palpably obvious, just have a look at the revenue received by government from this source and check out the very unsightly gatherings at the frontier.
Whatever might be the outcome of the succession debate for the leadership of the GSLP and consequently the alliance, the uncertainty is not helpful to its electoral chances of success. It is an issue that needs careful thought and attention. Thought and attention that should not be rushed but that should not delay the resolution of who will be leader for too long. The choice must be the right one. The last thing that politics in Gibraltar needs is that external events, concerning or involving the chosen individual, should negatively influence available and realistic choices of government at an election.
A government should be elected for positive and not negative reasons. A government elected for negative reasons benefits no community. It can reinforce a belief in inviolability that militates in favour of bad governance and bad decision making. It can result in an unhealthy distortion of democracy. The GSLP needs to cautiously choose its next leader, he may well be the next Chief Minister of Gibraltar or he could lose them the election.