The numbers tell a political story

The one thing that favours Labour is that the swing to the PN from the PL is insignificant. Bernard Grech’s trust has not increased and interestingly, the PN has not changed in numerical value

The invasion of Ukraine has served to distract public attention from the general election campaign, which has its own problems, and has even not managed to draw great public attention.

The very fact that the Labour Party has been leading in the polls for donkey’s years now has also served to push many former Labour voters into a state of lethargy; many others will declare that they will stay at home. To be frank, they are also uncomfortable to see their party win with such big numbers

Today’s MaltaToday poll by Polar shows in no uncertain terms that Labour has a challenge: it has to get out the vote... at least, if it wants to keep its super-majority intact, of course.

Unlike other polls, MaltaToday’s surveys have since 2002 shown both the undecided voters as well as declared non-voters. They do not ignore these numbers or hide them, because to understand elections, you cannot ignore the non-voters and undecided.

A substantial chunk of the new Labour voters in 2013 and 2017 who voted for a Joseph Muscat administration and were promised a dream, even a politics free of corruption and deceit – and believed it, and now feel betrayed by that charade – could be the potential non-voters and undecided ones. And it shows, because a substantial part of these ‘non-voters’ still trust Robert Abela more than Bernard Grech when asked.

People who had never voted for Labour chose to vote for Partit Laburista in 2013 after 25 years of PN government. They considered the PN then to be fossilised, conservative, inward-looking, lethargic, parochial and a partisan party. Despite the betrayal of the corruption scandals and the State’s link to the Caruana Galizia assassination, a sense of indolence appears to have been registered with a sizeable number of these Labour voters, the economic successes of the recent past notwithstanding.

To me it’s no surprise that the survey shows that Labour faces a colossal task to bring out the vote – the one that Robert Abela wants. But not an impossible task altogether.

Labour leader Robert Abela says that he has done all he could humanely do to address the weaknesses of his predecessors and calibrate the institutions.

But he cannot completely wash away the stains of culpability of his predecessor Joseph Muscat.

And that is why Muscat’s decision to openly campaign will backfire and enrage those former 2013 and 2017 Labour voters, who want a Labour Party that admits to its mistakes and detaches itself from Joseph Muscat.

For voters who are still saying they will not vote for Labour, they will need some meaningful arguments from Robert Abela and his peers to vote Labour again. Joseph Muscat’s presence, seemingly assisted by Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield, no doubt for his own electoral gains, is surely making this undertaking more difficult.

The one thing that favours Labour is that the swing to the PN from the PL is insignificant. Bernard Grech’s trust has not increased and interestingly, the PN has not changed in numerical value.

War in Europe

We are now approaching the fifth day of the full-scale, unprovoked Russian invasion in Ukraine. War has returned to Europe. Incredible, and sad.

Every dinner party and conversation is justifiably centred around Vladimir Putin’s full-scale assault on Ukrainian soil. COVID seems to be a long-forgotten saga all of a sudden.

Sadly this invasion brings home the realities of ruling demagogues who declare war with their vast armies to inflict chaos and death to countless communities, in a bid to extend their ambitions for global influence.

This is a war that Putin has every intention of using in a bid to extend Russian borders, sharpening his teeth with all his neighbours, on the pretext that he is warding off Nato advances.

The West’s weak reaction to this declaration of war is reminiscent of 1938, when Adolf Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland, and annexed Austria.

Europe’s reluctance to cut its Russian gas supply to Europe, a factor made difficult by the slow transition to green and renewable energy, or the equally difficult decision to block the use of the SWIFT banking system to Russia, shows how economics and trade trump geopolitical morality.

Ukraine is a nation which has limited military capability, but Europe is not going to be taking the fight against Russia there. Severe sanctions are the only hope to bring Russia to the table of diplomacy.

And while war is on our minds, it does not change the fact that the next general election in Malta also demands our attention, and that the press must tackle the proposals from the parties and politicians aspiring to implement them. We need to break down their generous promises and find out how genuine some of these proposals are.

In the meantime, I trust that some form of divine intervention can save Ukraine from the Russian aggressor: Putin is angry at the west and wants to push the envelope... we ignore him at our peril.