Labour’s metamorphosis

Despite Bernard Grech’s improvement in the polls, unless the PN can plot out a strategy to counter Abela’s incredible ongoing Labour metamorphosis, it has no chance of winning the next general election

Newly co-opted MP Oliver Scicluna takes his oath in the House of Representatives (Photo: DOI - Jeremy Wonnacott)
Newly co-opted MP Oliver Scicluna takes his oath in the House of Representatives (Photo: DOI - Jeremy Wonnacott)

A report taking up two pages in last Sunday’s il-mument alleged that the current Labour Party leadership is plotting to remove three MPs from the current parliamentary group and replace them with another three who did not contest the last general elections.

This speculative report claimed that Robert Abela is mulling the possibility of moving out MPs Manuel Mallia, Anthony Agius Decelis, and Silvio Parnis and co-opting Malcolm Paul Galea, Jo-Etienne Abela, and Josianne Cutajar to replace them.

Normally, I dismiss such ‘news’ as unabashed speculation. In this case I sense that there could be some hint of truth in the unsupported allegation.

The three sitting MPs who – according to the article – are in for the chop are among those that could possibly be regarded as dead wood by the Prime Minister and those who are behind his constant push to change Labour’s image through – among other ways – changing the face of Labour’s parliamentary group.

There is no doubt that this can be considered as undermining the people’s will as expressed in the 2017 general election. That election saw Labour led by Joseph Muscat win by another landslide. Joseph Muscat is no more and Labour wants the electorate to forget the sordid tale of Joseph and his gang of thieves while the PN insists that Robert Abela replacing Muscat did not change anything in the Labour Party.

Using co-options of MPs to launch new faces in the governing party is a Labour idea – with Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici (KMB) becoming Prime Minister in December 1984 without having contested the election. The popular reaction, spurned by what was then an efficient PN propaganda machine, was to call KMB ‘iz-zero’ (the zero) – zero being the number of votes that he got in the general election that he did not contest.

Using that yardstick, the number of ‘zeroes’ in the current parliament keeps on increasing!

After he was elected Labour Leader, Joseph Muscat was given a seat in Parliament through another co-option. Both co-options were unusual in Malta’s political history and purists might insist that this was an abusive manipulation of the co-option system that is indicated in our electoral law as a last resort when there is a vacant seat in the House of Representatives and no casual election is possible.

Since then, co-option has become the order of the day with parliamentary seats being ‘given’ to people who never contested the election – to the chagrin of many who believe that MPs represent the people because the people voted for them!

The PN followed Labour’s example and used co-option as a manoeuvre to get into Parliament persons who were not MPs but were elected as party leaders by a voting process within the party.

Now Robert Abela has gone further. He is replacing MPs who are considered dead wood by manoeuvring co-options that do not – in any way – reflect the people’s vote.

This is an abuse of the electoral system that Robert Abela is adopting to push Labour’s metamorphosis. He is doing so without bothering to consult the people whom his co-opted MPs are supposed to represent – to the extent that MPs are being co-opted to represent electoral districts with which they have no connection.

This is a case where the end justifies the means in the most Machiavellian way.

From the way last Sunday’s speculative article was written, depicting such moves as an indication of Labour’s internal struggles, it seems that the PN does not seem to understand the significance of Labour’s strategy.

When people are called to vote in the next general election the choice they will have to make will not be between the PN and the Labour Party they voted in power in the 2017 election. The Labour Party contesting the election would have changed and would therefore be acceptable to the swingers who were disappointed with the abuses and corruption under Joseph Muscat, after he had lured them to vote Labour.

It does not seem to me that the PN is giving enough weight to the phenomenon of Labour’s slow but sure changes. It just keeps on repeating that Robert Abela’s administration is just a continuation of Joseph Muscat’s while the electorate becomes more and more aware of Labour’s metamorphosis that the PN keeps on ignoring.

Despite Bernard Grech’s improvement in the polls, unless the PN can plot out a strategy to counter Abela’s incredible ongoing Labour metamorphosis, it has no chance of winning the next general election.

A new page for the US

The US starts a new page in its political history after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as President and Vice-President last Wednesday.

In his inaugural address Biden described this moment as a “historic moment of crisis and challenge” and called on America to end its “uncivil war” insisting that “Unity is the path forward”, in direct contrast with Trump’s divisive propaganda.

Though Biden refrained from mentioning Trump by name in his address, he used his first day in office to tacitly repudiate Trump by signing executive orders that reverse Trump administration measures affecting a range of issues, including the coronavirus crisis and climate change as well as the US rejoining the Paris climate accords and World Health Organization, after Trump had withdrawn from these global organisations.

Biden’s speech painted US democracy as one that is resilient to violence in contrast to Trump’s inauguration speech four years before, that painted a dark picture of America. Trump had even used the term ‘American carnage’ in his first speech as president.

One of the key messages of Biden’s speech was directed at other countries who might have thought the US had lost its way. In fact, polls show that the perception of the United States in other countries had sunk to new lows during Trump’s presidency.

Biden’s message to foreign countries was: “America has been tested, and we’ve come out stronger for it,” adding “we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. We’ll be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security.”

Yet, I do not believe the US can go back to what it was before Trump. He has left an indelible dark mark in US history, while weakening the status of the US all over the globe.