Likeability is still a factor in Maltese politics

All candidates have said that they are supported by Muscat. But the truth is only Scicluna was asked to stand by Muscat, Fearne and Dalli were not

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
10 July 2017, 7:45am
Of the three candidates only Scicluna (left) was asked to stand for the deputy leadership
Of the three candidates only Scicluna (left) was asked to stand for the deputy leadership
It is clear that there are still those who believe the electoral result means absolutely nothing. The same press statements are issued and there is once again this feeling of supremacy and that really the electorate are a bunch of morons. You meet up with the same posse of people, who repeat the same arguments and continue to believe what they heard in those long days in May of this year.

It is of course a clear case of denial. And the very fact that there is no post-mortem of what went wrong is indeed the beginning of the end.

To make matters worse, there is also this inflexibility and schism about gay marriage, which goes to show that you cannot take a donkey and make it gallop. You can take a horse and make it look like a donkey but sooner or later the truth will surface and everyone will know that it is a horse.

Beyond the commentaries that are present on the social media, the truth is that most Maltese are probably not in favour of gay marriage. There is nothing surprising in this. Most of the LGBT reform or steps were carried out by imposition rather than persuasion. And no matter what politicians insist, most people who are not gay would vote for economic considerations, not for the promises made in smaller print. Having said that, the gay community did vote for the party with the more evident credibility on the subject.  

Nonetheless, the conservative chunk that dominates Maltese society in no small way is unrepresented. It is true that many people dissociate themselves from the introduction of gay marriage. And though I disagree with them, it is unacceptable that in a democracy they are left unrepresented.

The reason that people do not talk about the imposition of liberal reforms, is basically because of the personality that charges this campaign. There is little doubt that beyond the walls of Sliema, Muscat is a very likeable person and Busuttil is not. That barometer was in fact an indicator in surveys in the last election that was ignored by some pollsters who were blinded by their political persuasion. In reality Joseph Muscat was simply more likeable than Simon Busuttil, who goes on believing that he still has a chance because he still believes that the Egrant allegations are not false.

Labour’s triumvirate in 2013, with Louis Grech and Toni Abela by Muscat’s side was a perfect electoral choice. Anglu Farrugia (now Speaker) had been ousted when he uttered some silly comment about a magistrate. Not serious enough in many people’s eyes, but in reality it was a token move that led many people to believe that Muscat meant business.

To be fair Muscat did not use the same stick with other wrongdoers.

That trio was perfect in many ways. Louis Grech a charmer, with very little in terms of words but someone who was very likeable, especially to those who were middle of the road and intrinsically scared of Labour’s past. Toni Abela, on the other hand, was respected for his honesty and integrity (in spite of Busuttil’s attempt to derail that valid perception) and loved by the Labour militants.

What is happening now, in the election for a deputy leader to replace Louis Grech, is an attempt to upset this harmony. Not because Chris Fearne and Helena Dalli cannot be leadership material, although many doubt it. But rather because Edward Scicluna actually fits the Muscat success story.  

He is moderate, calm, soft-spoken, clear and appeals to the professional classes. He has one very important asset, which is that he cannot threaten Muscat. Like Louis Grech, who privately would tell Muscat when he does not agree, Scicluna will remain loyal.

All candidates have said that they are supported by Muscat. But the truth is that only Scicluna was asked to stand by Muscat, Fearne and Dalli were not. They may have been encouraged, but they were never asked. And that is a fact.

If Muscat wants to reach out to the moderates who are members or delegates of the Labour party, then Scicluna fits the bill.

Scicluna will not stand as leader, unless he finds some elixir that will rejuvenate him to fight another election at 75. So his presence has a chemical consideration. Something to which Muscat gives a lot of importance.  

What will then happen in five years’ time, no one knows. Malta’s political landscape is changing so fast that five years from now is far too distant.

What is sure is that both parties need super candidates to lead them forward, individuals who have the energy and vision and that special likeability that strikes all their opponents. One will have the hard act to fill Muscat’s shoes, the other a perilous mountain to climb to oust Labour.

Scicluna may have the right qualities to be deputy leader. And Muscat knows it. The big question is, do the delegates know this?

 

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I love my Island, even though I know how insular we are. When we talk of being liberal and progressive I cannot imagine what would happen if Malta had a Simone Veil. She died this week at 89.

Few in Malta know her, but this week she was given a homage that only the great in France are awarded.  

Opinion polls routinely showed Mrs Veil to be one of the most admired people in France. She was a concentration camp survivor, introduced the abortion law, still known as the Veil Law, as health minister of the conservative President Valery Giscard d’Estaing and his first prime minister, Jacques Chirac. She was also the first woman President of the European Parliament.

The debate before the French National Assembly passed the law on November 29, 1974, by a vote of 284 to 189, was riddled with phrases such as “an act of murder,” “monstrous” and “France is making coffins instead of cribs.”

Her critics likened abortion to Nazi euthanasia. One asked, “Madame Minister, do you want to send children to the ovens?”

Veil told the assembly: “I say this with total conviction: Abortion should stay an exception, the last resort for desperate situations. How, you may ask, can we tolerate it without it losing the character of an exception – without it seeming as though society encourages it? I will share a conviction of women, and I apologize for doing it in front of this assembly comprised almost exclusively of men: No woman resorts to abortion lightheartedly.”

Of course that kind of debate finds no support in the Maltese parliament. All MPs agree vehemently that abortion will never set foot in Malta.

In the meantime the big taboo is not up for discussion. And we continue to refuse ts reality. In this respect we are very different Europeans!

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan is the founder and co-owner of MaltaToday. He has reported on Maltese poli...