And the winner is...

If Robert Abela wants to be proud of his legacy and mature in his role as prime minister, one important mission is a major overhaul of our Constitution, that modernises it with wide stakeholder consultation

It’s never a straightforward affair penning this column on the eve of an election.

There have been many surveys predicting the final electoral result. MaltaToday has gone for a 28,000 difference in its polling, while others were going as far as giving Labour a 40,000-vote lead. But the Polar surveys are based on a robust methodology that is, as much as is possible, free of any bias on interpretation.

Today we will know whether this number-crunching exercise will be close to the final result.

But beyond the numbers game, what is needed now is clear political direction from Robert Abela. All surveys have awarded him a definite win, the big question is by how much.

In elections, especially Maltese ones, the winner takes all – even by one vote. Labour have raised expectations, so anything not close to a 35,000 difference will be a disappointment for its followers, even though super-majorities like these cannot possibly last.

The problem for Robert Abela is not about numbers, but about whether he wants to govern as a visionary, with a mission for the country, or simply get on with the business of having landed himself the most powerful job in the country.

If it is the first option, then the first step he should take is to have a smaller Cabinet. It will be a difficult political decision to make and one that will alienate him from some ex-ministers but he needs to have a manageable team around him, and one that shines in the darkest of moments. His last Cabinet was not exactly a get-together of Harvard ‘A’ students. At times it behaved like some boċċi club committee.

His second decision is to award ministerial portfolios based on the criterion of capability, not on how many first-count votes were scooped up by candidates. The prerogative here should be to appoint ministers on consideration of competence, not popularity.

The third decision is to appoint a steering committee of heavyweights that can handle the challenges of the crisis ahead of us, that is, the impact of the Ukrainian invasion, its economic impact, but also Malta’s outdated concept of neutrality.

Fourthly, he will have to figure out how this country’s demography and political culture has changed to address various new themes tackled in this electoral campaign.

If Robert Abela wants to be proud of his legacy and mature in his role as prime minister, one important mission is a major overhaul of our Constitution, that modernises it with wide stakeholder consultation, a serious reform of the electoral law that focuses on the country’s political duopoly to open up to diversity and pluralism for new political formations in Malta, and to continue on Labour’s major social reforms.

He will also have to handle a shake-up of the institutions that govern a segment of our fourth pillar in democracy, most especially the outdated Broadcasting Authority, and to provide a safety net, both fiscal and structurally, for independent media companies and public broadcasting.

There will even have to be a real appraisal of where the country should be heading in 10, 15 years, the challenges of the climate crisis, decarbonisation, and the kind of economic model we have put into place. And it’s not something that can left in the hands of some Young Turk at Labour HQ, but with a national conference that brings together the best minds of this country.

What happens today, will also determine what the future for Malta’s largest opposition party. The Nationalist Party has a wonderful opportunity to redefine itself and prepare for the next electoral challenges.  The opportunity is there for the taking, and the PN must rise to the occasion and address their shortcomings and convert to a modern party, a party that can reflect the aspirations of a changing society for an alternative government in waiting.