The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

Muscat has not yet spoken to Cabinet or leadership contenders about his exit date

Thursday, 12 September 2019, 09:51 Last update: about 9 days ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has not yet spoken to cabinet or to those aiming to replace him at the helm of the government, about his imminent departure date, OPM sources have told The Malta Independent.

Speculation about Muscat’s exit from politics has been rife over the past few months, and it has been reported that the PM will set the ball rolling after this year’s budget, which will be announced on 14 October.

Indeed, some of those vying to replace him as Labour Party leader and Prime Minister have already started campaigning unofficially, but it seems that the PM has not actually signalled his go-ahead yet.

Times of Malta yesterday said that a leaked internal PL poll shows that Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne is currently in the lead, with MEP Miriam Dalli in close second. Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, who is aiming to become part of the PL leadership again after he was famously asked to resign as deputy leader in the wake of the Panama Papers fiasco, is in third place. Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg is in fourth place, while MP and government consultant Robert Abela is in fifth place, according to the poll quoted by the newspaper.

According to the PL statute, delegates would vote for all contenders in the first round, and for the two most successful ones in a run-off vote. The second round of voting could change the original scenario considerably, depending on the second preference of those who would have voted for eliminated candidates. 

Muscat has always said that his is a ten-year project, and recently confirmed that he will be stepping down before the next general election, scheduled for 2022. Many theories have been doing the rounds – some say that Muscat will step down at the last minute, while others say that he will be making his exit halfway through this legislature.

Many government and Labour officials have been calling on Muscat – who enjoys a cult-like status in the party – to stay on and lead the party to more landslide electoral victories. These calls have only intensified after Muscat’s failure to land a coveted Brussels top job earlier this year, despite his intense lobbying to join the EU elite.

Muscat had said, after that marathon EU meeting, that he would work as prime minister with ‘more vigour’, but also told a local radio station that his mind had not changed and that he would not be leading the PL into the next general election.

A number of sources have told this newspaper that the upcoming budget will signal the start of the end of Muscat’s premiership.

Muscat has been largely absent from media events over the past weeks, restricting himself to short Sunday phone interviews.

Sources pointed out that a number of ministers have been taking decisions without consulting with cabinet. A few weeks ago this newsroom reported that cabinet had not been consulted about the Santa Lucija tunnel and tree uprooting plans.

Some of the contenders have started campaigning unofficially and have already coined their campaign slogans, like Ian Borg’s #gettingthingsdone, Chris Fearne’s #Success and Konrad Mizzi’s #KonradEffect.

Rumours have also been rife about Muscat’s future, with some sources saying that he is too young to retire and that he could possibly be looking to the private sector for employment.

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