Should Joseph Muscat contest EP election? Majority say no, Labour voters overwhelmingly say yes

MaltaToday survey: Joseph Muscat candidature | Overall agree: 35.5% • PL voters agree: 69.5% 

Joseph Muscat has not yet said whether he will contest the European election
Joseph Muscat has not yet said whether he will contest the European election

Only 35.5% of voters want former prime minister Joseph Muscat to stand as an MEP candidate on a Labour ticket. 

But among current Labour voters the percentage who want Muscat to stand for election increases to a remarkable 69.5%. 

This represents a rare chasm between the views of the general electorate which are lukewarm on Muscat’s candidature and those of Labour voters who seem thrilled by the prospect. 

Over the past weeks Muscat has wetted the appetite of Labour supporters after addressing a mass rally organised by Labour lead candidate Alex Agius Saliba in which he kept them guessing on whether he will be contesting or not.  Muscat’s candidature is openly backed by Labour propagandist Emanuel Cushcieri but has created ripples in the party’s administration amidst concern that the former PM could over shadow the current leader. 

The MaltaToday survey further amplifies the quandary facing the Labour administration.   

For while speculation on Muscat’s candidature has already helped the party by galvanising the Labour vote, it could also turn off middle of the road voters and even a significant chunk of Labour voters.   

The survey shows that apart from a relative majority of 44.4% that do not want Muscat to contest, it also shows that 11.7% of current Labour voters are against. 

The percentage rises to 14.4% among respondents who had voted for Labour in 2022 in what could be an indication that a segment of disgruntled Labourites do not see Muscat in a positive light. 

Moreover 18.9% of current voters and 21% of Labour voters in 2022 are undecided, which suggests these are either indifferent or unenthusiastic on Muscat’s candidature. 

Yet the matter gets even more complicated when analysing the views of non-voters. 

Among this electorally strategic category which could make the difference between a stratospheric Labour victory and a narrowed gap between the two parties, 39.7% are against Muscat standing while a sizeable 23.7% agree. 

This suggests that although Muscat’s candidature may further alienate a segment of disgruntled voters, a smaller but significant segment may be more likely to vote Labour if he contests. 

Moreover, the voting intentions survey which shows Labour increasing its majority amidst a decline in non-voters, may also be seen an indication that speculation on a Muscat candidature has already helped in galvanising disgruntled Labourites. 

But Labour has to be extra careful not to disorient a minority of loyal voters who do not want their party tainted by the former leader’s scandal ridden legacy. 

Moreover, a Muscat candidature could also alienate important demographics like tertiary educated voters amongst which opposition to a Muscat candidature rises to 63.2% and where only 16.7% favour his candidacy. 

Moreover, opposition to a Muscat candidature is also higher among younger demographics. Among 16- to 35-year-olds, only 30.7% would like Muscat to stand as a candidate while 45.6% are opposed. 

An absolute majority in the Northern (51%) and Western (55.6%) regions, where Labour has made considerable inroads in the survey, is opposed to Muscat contesting. 

But Muscat’s candidature enjoys higher support in the Labour heartlands, particularly in the South Harbour where 44.8% want him to stand. Surprisingly, support for a Muscat candidature is even stronger in Gozo, an electorally strategic district, where 45.5% want the former PM to contest.