Labour – bad governance and all – is winning the strategic game

Of course, a week is a long time in politics, and many things can happen before 2018. We will wait and see.

The PN is missing the wood for the trees in basic constituency issues like Sliema’s overdevelopment. Simon Busuttil is busy doing everything but mobilizing his constituents
The PN is missing the wood for the trees in basic constituency issues like Sliema’s overdevelopment. Simon Busuttil is busy doing everything but mobilizing his constituents

I believe that as things stand, Labour will cruise to victory in the upcoming general elections in Malta. 

Joseph Muscat’s government and party is using winning tactics, the economy is doing relatively well, and the opposition is not seducing voters’ imagination.

The PN is missing the wood for the trees in basic constituency issues like Sliema’s overdevelopment. Simon Busuttil is busy doing everything but mobilizing his constituents. Genuine Nationalist councillors and activists in Sliema who are speaking up for residents are conspicuous by their solitude within the PN ranks. And many Nationalists have already given up on the chances of winning the next election.

From what I see the PN is attempting to look ‘new’ by focusing on soft issues like animal welfare and sports, but is not daring to confront established oligarchs. One can say that the PL is doing this too – but the PL is also adopting many liberal (and popular) issues and is governing over good economic results, albeit characterised by social inequalities and questions of sustainability.

Electorally, Labour’s strategy seems to be paying off. 

The small parties, AD and PD, very often speak truth to power and have no political debts to big business interests. But both have very little chance of parliamentary election, though this could change with pre-election coalitions: something which has its opportunities and risks, yet which nobody seems to want.

As things stand, the power of AD and PD is based on the ‘threat’ of winning votes which could go elsewhere. This is no small power, but maybe one should investigate other electoral strategies too. And AD’s relative successes in local council elections should be built upon.

Within the social media there are all sorts of opinions about what is to be done in Malta. Some opinions represent widely-shared concerns on different issues or the general political scenario.

Others are not so representative, despite their vociferous claims. Some critics of the big two parties find it very easy to criticize the small parties, yet somehow shy away from being active themselves in party politics. Some also speak of the need of some radical socialist messiah or some right-wing populist to clean Malta up. Let’s not go there please, unless we are delving into fiction. Politics takes place within a context. And I see no magical encounter which will suddenly displace the two-party system. This could produce a nice novel though.

Labour – bad governance and all – is winning the strategic game. It has so far managed to survive the Panama Papers scandal and other bad governance issues ranging from the new power station to social networks in politics and big business. 

Maybe most voters in Mediterranean Malta do not really give prime importance to such issues. Or maybe Simon Busuttil’s opposition is not credible.

In the meantime, Labour is hinting at some progressive social measures in the upcoming budget. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the government finds reasons to stop some controversial development projects. This would be a political masterstroke which once again would outdo the current PN’s slow, bland and unimaginative way of things.

Of course, a week is a long time in politics, and many things can happen before 2018. We will wait and see.

Before someone rushes to conclusions, I am not a Labourite and I have no intention of contesting the upcoming general elections. I leave frontline party politics to others who are specialized in the field, and I am saying this out of respect. I prefer being active the way I am: as a Green local councillor, a progressive civil society activist and a public sociologist.

Happy summer to everyone!

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