Politics, corruption and government’s economic roadmap in 2022

Xtra on TVM | Panellists financial analyst Steve Ellul, lawyer Malcom Mifsud and journalist James Debono discuss the country’s political landscape in 2022

The Nationalist Party has lost its “political edge”, and has no issue with which it can properly rally voters, journalist James Debono said on XTRA.

“Since the European Union referendum, it has not had an issue which helps it attract voters,” Debono said.

Financial Analyst Steve Ellul who is touted to be a Labour MEP candidate, former Pieta mayor and lawyer Malcom Mifsud and MaltaToday senior journalist James Debono discussed the country’s political landscape in 2022 on Saviour Balzan’s XTRA.

Speaking on last March’s general election, Malcom Mifsud said while he was not surprised with the election, he would have liked to see the PN close the gap on the Labour Party.

“Between 2013 and 2022 we saw a lot of arrogance from Labour, with the party getting such big majorities in all MEP, local council and general elections,” he said. “Labour was not afraid of showing its strength.”

He said arrogance can be seen in the string of scandals which were emerging from government.

MaltaToday senior journalist and political analyst said corruption has always been part of political life in the country, and reducing Labour’s election win to just the issue would be unjust.

“I feel that to certain strata in society, the PN is becoming toxic, and people are not attracted towards the party,” Debono said. “There were times when it was the underway round, for example during the European Union referendum.”

The debate also revolved around the political “edge” the PN is missing in its search for the popular vote.

Mifsud argued the PN, before it aspires to do better in the electoral polls, it should decide on the message it would be communicating. “It also needs to attract the best minds to decide its strategy internally, and we have seen the lack of strategy in the past 10 years.”

Steve Ellul said crucial to the Labour Party’s victories was the way it brought together the interests of the employers and workers, while continuing to grow the economy. “The importance of the economic growth was highlighted when the country needed it.”

“When people were faced with the biggest economic crisis in our lifetime, we saw how government pooled its resources to address the situation,” Ellul said.

Debono pointed out the PN’s past is still catching up to it, and issues that arise today are sometimes tied to the party’s decisions when it was in government.

“For example, when an environmental issue arises, the argument always goes back to what the PN did on rationalisation and local plans,” he said. “This obviously does not absolve Labour which continued in their stead.”

The debate also addressed the debating of controversial subjects like abortion and euthanasia in the country.

Labour youth wing president Georvin Bugeja and PN MEP candidate Peter Agius also spoke during the debate through videocall.

Looking ahead at 2023

Asked on the issues they think will dominate the political scene in 2023, James Debono said recent controversy surrounding the bribes made to former European Parliament vice-president Eva Kaili by Qatari representatives will create “understandable frustration” among people. “People rightly so will say that these highly paid individuals are still susceptible to corruption. What worries me is people might try to take an advantage in order to criticise the EU.”

Mifsud said he hopes that in 2023 no more stories of corruption are revealed. “The culture of might is right should stop.”

Ellul concluded by saying that government should continue exploring new economic niches