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Frank Psaila

A one-off opportunity

If Muscat goes, the chances are that Labour won’t be out in the wilderness for a long time

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Frank Psaila
24 May 2017, 7:30am
June 3 is a one-off opportunity for well-meaning Labour supporters, who are not part of Muscat’s tightly knit group, to purge the party from this clique
June 3 is a one-off opportunity for well-meaning Labour supporters, who are not part of Muscat’s tightly knit group, to purge the party from this clique
Labour won the 2013 general election with a landslide. Back then, many thought that Muscat would last, for at least two terms in office. That could still happen, but his chances of re-election are now less certain than they were four years ago. 

If Muscat is voted out on June 3, he would have himself to blame. He had a comfortable majority, in parliament and beyond. He was the undisputed leader of the Labour party. He was widely regarded, and hailed, as the man who made Labour electable again. He trashed the Nationalist Party in all local council elections pre-2013, and won handsomely in the MEP elections that followed.

Four years ago, many within the Nationalist Party thought that the party had two terms in opposition. Then Muscat blew it. It all came crashing down when 11 million copies of classified documents were leaked. Tiny Malta found itself in the midst of the Panama Papers scandal. Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed further information linking Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri to secret off companies and bank accounts.

In Europe, and beyond, Prime Ministers resigned. Not so in Malta. Muscat defended Mizzi and Schembri. The latter is accused of kickbacks from the sale of passports to eastern European oligarchs, which allegations he denies. What followed were months of bad publicity in the local and international press.

Recently, Caruana Galizia alleged that the Prime Minister’s spouse too had a secret company, and that large amounts of money, from the Aliyev family, were transferred to her bank account. The Muscats denied the allegations. This could well have been the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back. Muscat called a snap election. The rest shall soon be history.

Polls

Polls still put Labour ahead of the Nationalist Party, but thousands refuse to divulge their voting intentions to the pollsters. The general feeling on the ground is that the so-called ‘switchers’ are supporting the Nationalist Party, which on its part has garnered an enthusiasm last seen since the EU membership referendum and the general election that followed. Rumour has it that a substantial number of traditional Labour voters refuse to vote on June 3, whilst others intend to vote for the Nationalist Party or the Partit Demokratiku.

If Muscat fails to secure a second term, it would be a disaster for him, and his closest aides Mizzi and Schembri, but a victory for Malta and, yes, the Labour party. Admittedly, this would be a painful process for well-meaning Labourites. They worked hard and waited a long time to see their party back in government. When it happened, they were, understandably, livid, and Muscat their hero.

A second term

If Muscat secures a second term in office, things will never be the same again. For as long as he remains Prime Minister dark clouds, emanating from grave allegations of corruption, shall loom over his administration. Mizzi and Schembri will tighten their hold over the party and act invincible. Five years is a short period of time, but enough to ruin a country’s reputation and wreak havoc, in Muscat’s case, to his party. 

If Muscat is voted out on June 3, Labour would rid itself of the Muscat-Mizzi-Schembri clique for good. A new leader would take his place, hopefully a person of good repute whose task would be to reconnect Labour with the people, and offer a serious, credible alternative to the Nationalists. If Muscat goes on June 3, and provided the right person is elected at the helm of the party, the chances are that Labour won’t be out in the wilderness for a long time. 

For June 3 is a one-off opportunity for well-meaning Labour party supporters, who are not part of Muscat’s tightly-knit group, to purge the party from the clique which hijacked Labour and now threatens to strangle it. It would, above all, be victory for Malta.

Muscat does not have his party’s, even less so, Malta’s interest at heart. If he did, he would have sacked Mizzi and Schembri and, temporarily, resigned his post until the magisterial inquiry concludes its investigation. He called a snap election hoping to save his skin.

June 3 should send Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri packing. The country’s reputation, read jobs, is at stake. It’s time to stand up and be counted.

Frank Psaila presents Iswed Fuq l-Abjad on Net TV

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