Joseph Muscat: Here to stay?

A strong Muscat leading the Labour Party, with no end of his leadership years in sight, poses a robust challenge to any party in Opposition

What now interests the average citizen of Malta is whether Muscat will be forgetting his determination of not serving as Prime Minister beyond two terms
What now interests the average citizen of Malta is whether Muscat will be forgetting his determination of not serving as Prime Minister beyond two terms

Joseph Muscat’s popularly touted ambition to move to a top job in the EU has been dashed with the choice of the nominations for the top four jobs in the EU set-up.

Although qualified majority voting is possible in many cases, the EU still adopts most policies by consensus, with unanimous decisions being the norm rather than the exception.

Therefore, the choice of the European Council to take this road when deciding on nominations for the top EU jobs is only natural: there is never a ‘winner takes all’ process in the EU.

Judging by what was said in the media – both the social media and the written media – the way the EU works is hardly in line with the Maltese mentality that sees disagreements and futile arguments behind every decision of the powers that be. For many of us in Malta, political decisions must perforce signify a victory of one side over another and compromise is anathema. Not for the EU.

Many are not familiar with the type of horse-trading that goes on when the EU takes so many decisions – something that has been the norm ever since the predecessor of the EU, the Common market, was set up. To find consensus in an organisation where one has 28 different member states, a host of different political groupings and different contradictory interests is no easy task. But the EU has a tradition of managing the decision process by arriving at a compromise.

In a paper published online by Cambridge University Press in September 2012, Frank M. Hage of the Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick, argues that in the EU, consensus emerges more or less coincidentally from the coalition-building process itself.

Often negotiators from one country band together with negotiators with similar positions from other states until their coalition is large enough to formally block a decision. If, at the end of this process, all member states are organised in blocking minority coalitions, then no policy can be adopted without unanimous consent. Thus, consensus emerges as a by-product of the coalition-building behaviour of negotiators who seek to form blocking minority coalitions.

Whether Joseph Muscat featured in one of the probable line-ups that was being touted – and blocked – is actually a moot point, as much as the speculation that Muscat missed the boat because of the way he did not deal with Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri after the Panama Papers revelations, an argument that was the inspiration of the writer of the editorial of The Malta Independent last Thursday.

On the same day, a front-page story in l-Orizzont explained that Muscat will now be able to continue as Prime Minister “in the coming years”, implying that his resignation from the Labour leadership is hardly imminent.

What l-Orizzont was implying is that the jockeying for positions and infighting that had already started within the Labour Party machine will have to be postponed... with the government having more time to concentrate on delivering the goods to the electorate.

Which means, Chris Fearne, Konrad Mizzi and Ian Borg, let alone Miriam Dalli, should forget about their ambitions – for the time being – and go back to working hard to achieve their ministry’s goals.

What now interests the average citizen of Malta is whether Muscat will be forgetting his determination of not serving as Prime Minister beyond two terms. If he intends to keep to his word, he will have to leave a few months after the next general election – an election that he will undoubtedly win, considering the overall political scene in Malta and the mess in which the PN finds itself.

What is certain is that any infighting over Muscat’s succession expected within the Labour party has now been definitely postponed until after the next general election – something that is unquestionably a disadvantage to the PN and its supporters. Ironically, many PN supporters used the social media to express their satisfaction that Muscat did not make it.

A strong Muscat leading the Labour Party, with no end of his leadership years in sight, poses a robust challenge to any party in Opposition.

That this party is in disarray mostly because of a section that has never accepted Delia’s leadership – in spite of his being democratically elected by the PN card-carrying members – only makes the PN’s prospect of electoral success more remote.

The corollary of this situation is that it is not only Adrian Delia who is unelectbale, but also anyone who replaces him. Adopting a strategy that aims to decrease the gap between the votes of the two parties is what actually makes sense. But the old guard who want Delia out, seem to be incapable of doing this by promoting a vision where citizens will be better off with a change in government. Instead, they prefer repeating the same ‘corruption’ mantra that – sadly – seems to have become water over a duck’s back for the majority of Maltese voters.

Instead of working for the common interests of both the PN and Malta, some have opted to open up an all-out battle against Delia while considering his removal as some holy grail.

If Delia’s removal becomes real and someone else becomes PN leader this would be a Pyrrhic victory that would only temporarily satisfy those who were out for Delia’s blood even before he was elected leader.

The fact that Muscat is here to stay is bad news for the PN – something that is being ignored by those who have been fighting Delia.

Meanwhile the PN burns, while Muscat keeps on fiddling and repeating his favourite propaganda plugs.

Is there any prospect other than the one that points to Muscat being here to stay?

I doubt it.

The democratic vote

It was, to say the least, rich for The Times last Tuesday to choose a story with the headline: “Delia will respect ‘democratic vote’ on leadership future” for its front page. Has respect for the ‘democratic vote’ become so rare within the PN, that when its leader says that he abides by the notion, the report makes the front-page headlines?

More in Blogs