The failure of the Maltese political class

Considering this mess, it will be more and more difficult for serious people to be enticed to become active in politics and it will be a long time before Malta can become the country that it deserves to be as an EU member state

Konrad Mizzi
Konrad Mizzi

When two young MEPs – Joseph Muscat and later Simon Busuttil – became the leaders of the two main political parties I had forecast a new development in the Maltese political scene. I thought that with their experience in the European Parliament, the art of compromising when faced with differences would not be anathema to them and the end of Maltese tribal politics became a distinct possibility.

Alas, I could not have been more wrong.

Today, Malta is faced with the failure of the Maltese political class with both main parties in disarray: Labour leader, Robert Abela, struggling to erase the Joseph Muscat legacy and PN leader, Adrian Delia, struggling to survive the attacks of those who never wanted him leader in the first place.

As the Malta Employers’ Association (MEA) said in a statement a few days ago, Malta is facing a political meltdown with the governing party “mired in an ever-increasing series of scandals” and the party in Opposition being “a disorganised mess and failing miserably to project itself as an alternative government.”

MEA expounded its assessment by insisting the country is in “real danger of institutional collapse” with the Maltese people risking losing all that they had achieved through the hard work of the political class of bygone days.

In my opinion, the salient points that have led to this massive failure are two. First: the adoption by all the political class of the Machiavellian principle that the end justifies the means whenever it suits one, while berating the other side for doing just that – particularly when ‘defending’ the rule of law only when it is convenient. Second: the complete abandonment of the sense of loyalty that the old political class believed in and practised more often than not, even during the harshest political clashes.

The report of the Auditor General about the contracts given to Vitals Global Healthcare for the running of three Maltese state hospitals hammered the final nails in the coffin of the Konrad Mizzi legacy.

Suffice to say that the report says bluntly that Vitals should have been barred because of ‘collusive behaviour’ between the government and the company through a secret agreement made before the tender was even issued. Mizzi now claims that decisions were taken by Cabinet. This means that Mizzi is dragging all the Muscat Cabinet into the muddy swamp.

Mizzi was openly supported by Joseph Muscat for a long time, even after it was obvious that his box of tricks had no limits. His loyalty to the party in which he militated and to his previous Cabinet colleagues is nowhere to be seen. First, he conned them to believe in his projects and now he expects them to share the responsibility for his obscene cons.

Draining the swamp is proving to be a Herculean task for Robert Abela. Labour was hijacked by a gang of criminals to the dismay of many of its loyal supporters and Abela has the duty, not only to clean his party’s act in power, but also to help ensure that the Maltese people can revert to trusting the political class.

Many of the travails of the political party in Opposition are self-inflicted. I am the first to admit that Adrian Delia did not live up to his initial promise. The clash between his determination to lead the PN basing himself on the support of the party members who voted for him with the determination of the majority of the parliamentary group who never wanted him in spite of what the PN statute says is a clash in which media spins, and lack of loyalty became a hallmark.

As I write, the clash has not been resolved. Any which way it is solved, it will not put the PN in a situation where it can be considered by the people as a credible alternative government.

Indeed, I do not think that removing Delia and appointing a new leader will suddenly change the dismal numbers that the PN has been consistently showing in voting intention surveys.

The failure of the class of politicians at the top of the PN is palpable and I cannot understand how people, who think they are among the best politicians Malta has ever seen, cannot realise that their actions and their way of doing things are counter-productive.

More so since they ditched all sense of loyalty to the party, its statute and its card-carrying members and have acted in a way that they do not practise what they preach, with the end justifying the means.

Considering this mess, it will be more and more difficult for serious people to be enticed to become active in politics and it will be a long time before Malta can become the country that it deserves to be as an EU member state.

The end of US hegemony

‘Exit from Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order’ is the title of an interesting article written by Alexander Cooley and Daniel H. Nexon published in a recent edition of Foreign Affairs.

U.S. global leadership is not simply in retreat: it is unravelling. And the decline is not cyclical but permanent. The ‘permanent’ triumph of liberalism is no longer.

According to the writers there are many signs that point to a crisis in global order. Among them: the uncoordinated international response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic downturns, the resurgence of nationalist politics, and the hardening of state borders. They all seem to herald the emergence of a less cooperative and more fragile international system. Many observers think that these developments underscore the dangers of Donald Trump’s ‘America first’ policies and his retreat from global leadership.

Even before the pandemic, Trump regularly criticized the value of alliances and institutions such as NATO, supported the breakup of the European Union, withdrew from a number of international agreements and organisations, and pandered to autocrats such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from WHO should also be considered in this context.

Predictions of American decline and a shift in international order are far from new and, in the past, they have proved to be consistently wrong.

But, the authors say, this time it is really different.