[WATCH] Labour voters defending their choice, not the party – Peppi Azzopardi

Peppi Azzopardi, Pierre Portelli, Ramona Frendo and Andrew Azzopardi discuss the national highlights of 2014 in Monday night's edition of Reporter. 

People give their opinion on 2014. Video: Ray Attard

People who voted for the Labour Party in the 2013 general elections are sticking by the government to defend their voting choice, rather than because they believe that the government is doing a good job, TV host Peppi Azzopardi said.

“When a person visits several car showrooms before eventually buying a car that has problems starting up, he won’t tell anyone that he made a mistake and will probably defend his choice,” Azzopardi said. “An analogy can be drawn with people who voted for the Labour Party in the general elections. Nobody has changed their vote because of the recent incident involving [ex-home affairs minister] Manuel Mallia and nobody will change their vote if Mallia returns to the Cabinet either.”

He was speaking on Monday night’s edition of Reporter that dealt with the headline local events of 2014.

“You can’t pretend that the Nationalist Party can suddenly get up on its feet after suffering such a huge election loss,” lawyer and opinonist Ramona Frendo said. “It will take time for both the Labour switchers to come to terms with themselves that they made a mistake and for the PN to win back its credibility, even from its core supporters.”

A recent survey indicates that people’s faith in the government and in Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has actually grown following Muscat’s sacking of Mallia.

“The survey does indeed indicate that Muscat’s popularity grew after he sacked Mallia,” journalist Pierre Portelli said. “However, with regards the Mallia incident, the PN managed to properly organise themselves for the first time since their election loss.

Referring to the Mallia sacking, he criticised modern politics for becoming too ‘superficial’.

“The current political strategy, and not only in Malta, when it comes to taking major decisions has become far too dependent on surveying the popular opinion,” he said.  

He added that the PN’s huge defeat in the 2014 European Parliament elections hadn’t surprised him.

“The MEP elections came too soon after the general elections and the PN were still in disarray following their massive election loss and their internal, financial problems,” Portelli said. “Also, the government was more attentive in its first year in power than in its second one.”

Crisis within the Church

Pierre Portelli pointed out the historic resignation of Archbishop Paul Cremona as the local event that struck him most heavily in 2014.

“The Church has been in a crisis since the 80s and 90s when it tried to cover up its behaviour in the 60s and 70s,” Portelli said. “That being said, it’s not only the Maltese Church that’s facing problems, and the Pope recently criticized the bureaucracy within the Vatican.”

While he said that the Church is still relevant today as a group with the teachings of Jesus as its manifesto, he insisted that it must update its policies.

“I go to mass every Sunday and I’m sick of only seeing male priests celebrating Mass,” Portelli said. “Clerical celibacy is a huge problem for the Church too. The Maltese Church should use Pope Francis as a reference point as his style of leadership is a complete mismatch to the local church.”

However, Peppi Azzopardi was not so optimistic.

“This Pope is good at media relations but he still looks at homosexuality in the same way that his predecessor had,” he said. “Malta’s new Archbishop should be someone capable of communicating and using the media. When Muscat chose his Shadow Cabinet, he rightfully only picked those people who knew how to communicate.”  

Ramona Frendo said that the Church must now decide whether to become populist in an attempt to attract more people to it or to stick to its values at the risk of losing more followers.

“If it opens its doors, it risk losing its core support and if it remains true to its fundamental values, it risks losing followers who see it as too conservative," she said. 

Civil unions law

Ramona Frendo highlighted the passing of the civil unions law as the event that struck her most in 2014.

“Now I want to see more civil rights laws pass, such as for co-habitation, organ donation and for the right of patients to decide what will happen to them when they can no longer take care of themselves,” she said.

While Peppi Azzopardi similarly praised the passing of the civil unions law, he criticised the government for including gay adoptions in the same law, a move that led the Opposition to abstain on the civil unions law.  

“The government could have passed the two laws separately and within one hour of each other,” Azzopardi said. “The Nationalist Party has every right to disagree with gay adoptions, but I don’t think that [Opposition leader] Simon Busuttil is anti-LGBT. I recently met a trans-person who told me that the only person who managed to help him was Simon Busuttil.”   

The forgotten citizenship controversy

Peppi Azzopardi shrugged off the controversy surrounding the introduction of the Individual Investor Programme earlier this year.

“I’m pleased that I’m Maltese and I like Maltese people, but the Maltese passport means nothing to be because I feel like a global citizen,” he said. “The only question mark I had over the IIP was whether we were giving off an impression to other countries that we are in such a dire state that we have to resort to selling our passports.”

Referring to the addition of a residency clause and the removal of a secrecy clause, Pierre Portelli pointed out that the IIP law is different to how it had originally been proposed.

Chaos in Libya and the Middle East

Journalist Andrew Azzopardi cited German journalist Jurgen Tedenhofer who, after visiting Islamic State territories, warned that the militants consider Europe as a target.

“My worry is that Malta will be used as a bridge to Europe,” Azzopardi said.

Ramona Frendo pointed out that the deepening crisis in Libya, which now has two rival governments, could affect Malta in terms of irregular immigration.

“It’s hard to speak to Libyan authorities about immigration when these authorities don’t even exist,” she said.

Live current affairs programme Reporter is presented by Saviour Balzan and produced by MediaToday. The programme also includes lawyer Ramona Frendo as a resident opinionist. The programme emerged as the second most watched discussion programme on national television according to a Broadcasting Authority survey published last week.

Reporter is aired live every Monday at 9.45pm on TVM 1