Robert’s surreal administration

Meanwhile expect different messages from the Labour Party – a message to appease the ‘Muscat can do no wrong’ supporters and a message to appease those in the Labour Party that want their party to turn a new page

Robert Abela would not have become Labour leader and Prime Minister were it not for the push behind the scenes by the Muscat camp to oust Fearne’s bid to the leadership. We now know that it was Chris Fearne who led the ‘rebels’ in Cabinet and who forced Joseph Muscat to resign, and this probably explains that Muscat was all out for revenge.

Now Abela is in the surreal position in which the man who ‘helped’ him become Prime Minister is actually a large albatross around his neck. He can only shake off this albatross if he gets re-elected Prime Minister in a general election, rather than in a restricted election in which the voters were just Labour’s card-carrying members.

The continuous conflicting messages coming from Robert Abela’s administration is the result of this weird situation.

Last Tuesday, the Government’s whip, Glen Bedingfield, claimed in a speech in Parliament that Joseph Muscat is being persecuted and even urged the Chief Justice to investigate the so-called police search at Muscat’s private home, claiming that this was not done in a ‘humane’ way! He also questioned how the media and others appeared to know about the planned search.

In fact, even Joseph Muscat himself appeared to have been tipped off about the planned search – so much so that he even prepared a file for when police came knocking on his door. But Bedingfield ignored this!

Bedingfield went one further, claiming that certain institutions, like the Standards Commissioner and Ombudsman, had been taken over by individuals close to the Nationalist Party and instead of doing their duty properly, were needlessly blemishing Labour’s reputation.

I do not believe that Bedingfield is so stupid that he actually believes what he said. But his tirade must have been greeted as if it were manna falling from heaven by Labour supporters who believe Muscat can do no wrong and who will soon be choosing which Labour candidate they will vote for in the election.

At the same time, Government accepted to discuss the Bill moved by the Opposition to implement the recommendations of the inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. This discussion on the Bill began and ended last Thursday in Parliament after it was described as a ‘political gimmick’ by Robert Abela himself on Wednesday. The holding of the debate on Thursday was certainly a political gimmick – this time on Abela’s part.

Abela felt he needed to ‘explain’ that the government would be participating in the parliamentary debate just to clarify how it was already proposing its own legislative changes based on the conclusions and recommendations of the inquiry.

The conflicting message is, on one hand, a popular ‘no’ to the recommendations, with people like Bedingfield attacking the institutions that these recommendations want to defend and strengthen while, on the other hand, Robert Abela insisting that Labour can deliver the laws necessary as a result of these recommendations better than the PN.

Anyone who thinks that Bedingfield is a rebel fomenting people against Robert Abela must be naive. Abela needs the vote of those who believe fervently in the line being espoused by Bedingfield, but he also needs the vote of others who think that Muscat should be assigned to the dustbin of history.

I believe that Robert Abela genuinely intends to implement the inquiry recommendations, but he will only be doing this after the election, in the hope that by then he would have somehow got rid of the albatross hanging round his neck.

Abela’s switch from his current surreal position to a serious stance will occur only after the popular vote confirms him as Prime Minister. This will be a very important switch in the history of Maltese politics.

Meanwhile, Robert Abela soldiers on, fully knowing that come election time, Labour supporters will put their party before anything else.

The election will most probably be held in March. There are too many indications pointing towards this. According to a report in The Times, contractors providing billboards, lighting and sound equipment, and large tents and stages used for political gatherings were contacted by Labour’s election campaign team and told to prepare to be ready to provide their services from 7 February.

Meanwhile expect different messages from the Labour Party – a message to appease the ‘Muscat can do no wrong’ supporters and a message to appease those in the Labour Party that want their party to turn a new page and detach itself completely from the corruption and vagaries of the Muscat years.

Pushing these two messages at the same time makes Robert Abela appear as if he is trying to canonise the devil.

But it is only after the election that Malta will know who the real Robert Abela is.

A PN gaffe

Last Monday the Opposition was caught napping when it failed to object and vote against Rosianne Cutajar’s appointment as president of the parliamentary health committee – just two months after she was reprimanded by the House for a breach of ethics.

On Tuesday the Nationalist Party announced it will be boycotting parliament’s health committee, because it will be chaired by government MP Rosianne Cutajar. It said that there was no agreement with the government on her appointment and said the motion had been proposed ‘by stealth’, whatever that means.

In fact, the motion was made in the same way that such motions are made in the House of Representatives.

This gave the opportunity to the Labour Party to claim that the PN had only decided to boycott the committee after NGO Repubblika had said that it was ‘stunned’ that the Opposition had not objected to Cutajar’s appointment.

The truth is that the PN did not do its homework properly and the Opposition MPs who were present when the Deputy Prime Minister, Chris Fearne, proposed the relevant motion in the beginning of the session of the House of Representatives had ‘stealthily’ accepted whatever Fearne was proposing. Probably they did not realise what Fearne was talking about!

As the election date nears, sitting MPs become more interested in their personal electoral campaigns than in what is going on in the House – another situation created by the complete failure of our electoral system.