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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

Muscat’s ‘Mr Invincible’ attitude

The Court’s decision to allot two seats does not change the fact that the PN got a serious drubbing at the polls in 2013

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
11 February 2015, 8:14am
The market stalls saga and the PM’s refusal to accept the court’s decision, must be added to a long list of similar miscalculations, which demonstrates Muscat’s invincible attitude
The market stalls saga and the PM’s refusal to accept the court’s decision, must be added to a long list of similar miscalculations, which demonstrates Muscat’s invincible attitude
Joseph Muscat once won plaudits from across the political divide for his pledge on a new style of doing politics. There have been some bad mis-steps along the way. This week was a case in point.

At the time of writing, former Labour Party secretary-general Jason Muscat, now chairman of the Valletta 2018, is still opposing vociferously his Prime Minister’s decision to locate the market stalls in and around Parliament and city gate.

Micallef is right. Muscat’s decision to locate the market stalls at city gate caused a public outcry and Muscat knew exactly that that was prone to happen. This is the result of the PM’s promise, on the eve of the 2013 general election, to the hawkers – now Muscat has painted himself in a tight corner. If he succumbs to Jason Micallef and the public and locate the market stalls elsewhere, he will lose the votes of what is a powerful lobby; if he ignores Micallef and the public outcry, things will get very complicated for the Prime Minister. Whichever way you look at it, Muscat is set to lose, and he’s got only himself to blame. This is a mess of his own making.

Winner-takes-all approach

On Thursday morning, Mrs Justice Jacqueline Padovani Grima ruled that the PN suffered discrimination for two years because of a mistake made by the Electoral Commission. Instead of 32 seats, the PN got 30. That left Muscat with a nine-seat majority. The Prime Minister had an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that he respects the people’s will, now supported by a Court’s decision and acted accordingly. He refused to do so. The Prime Minister’s refusal to accept the Court’s decision, despite his government’s right to appeal, demonstrates a winner takes all approach; an invincible attitude which does not always win him brownie points. On Thursday many interpreted that approach as arrogance

PN got a drubbing at the polls – no court decision will change that

PN leader Simon Busuttil puts it aptly when he says that justice was now served not only with the PN but also as a reflection of how the people voted. On the other hand, those who argue that the court’s decision puts in doubt the size of Labour’s victory should not be taken seriously because Thursday’s decision does not change the fact that the PN got a serious drubbing at the polls in 2013.

The court’s decision does justice with the PN, but it does not change anything from what happened in 2013. Truth is, that two years later the Prime Minister’s trust ratings are still high as he enjoys a considerable lead over his political opponent. The Nationalist Party needs to work hard to close the gap as time is running out. Whispers of an early election are doing the rounds. 

‘Transparency is a commitment, not a choice’

The market stalls saga and the Prime Minister’s refusal to accept the court’s decision, must be added to a long list of similar miscalculations, which demonstrates Muscat’s invincible attitude.

Last Sunday, MaltaToday, in its editorial, argued that transparency is a commitment not a choice, and chastised the Muscat administration for failing to deliver on what the newspaper described, and rightly so, as Labour’s most crucial promise to the electorate: transparency. It went on to list a number of instances where the Muscat government failed to live up to its transparency promise: Its refusal to publish all the agreements and contracts pertinent to the development of a new power station in Marsaxlokk; and Transport Minister Joe Mizzi’s refusal to publish the contract with Spanish transport company Autobuses Urbanos de Leon.

Perhaps the reason the Prime Minister thinks he can get away with his wrong attitude is that he knows that he is still popular with the electorate and will probably secure another election victory should he decide to go to the polls early in the legislature. He probably thinks, and perhaps it’s true, that come 2018 only the hawkers will vote on the market stalls issue, because people usually vote on what affects them directly. Therefore, he is prepared to take the flak hoping that the issue will eventually be off the news headlines and the hawkers – and their families’ votes – secure. However, he risks irking the so called switchers who, in 2013, opted for change and voted Labour for the first time because they were sick and tired of the Nationalist Party in government. That would be a disaster for Labour. 

In the long run Muscat’s invincible attitude could well taint his place in history and prove to be the reason for his downfall. 

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...
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