The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: The next election - Determining factors

Tuesday, 12 January 2021, 08:46 Last update: about 8 days ago

There are many questions surrounding the next general election. While 2022 will mark five years since the 2017 election, it is not unheard of that a government would call one early.

Prime Minister Robert Abela, on Sunday, said that before the 2017 electoral manifesto is completely implemented, he will not call an election.

Achieving a 100% completion rate is no easy task, but this statement does not really give us an idea as to when an election would, in fact, be called.

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There are many factors that one needs to consider. Firstly, there is the Covid-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister has been quoted as saying that he wants the country to be business as usual by May. Whether that is a realistic hope or not remains to be seen, especially given that we do not yet know how long the vaccines will be effective for. Until such a time, the health authorities might still want to keep certain restrictions around.

Maltese elections tend to be very divisive. Indeed due to this, the Prime Minister might want to wait a while before calling one, simply not to put the country into an unstable situation which could have a negative impact if the aim is for the country to hit the ground running economically once most people are vaccinated.

Businesses, at that time, would want stability and not want to have the many questions an election could bring with it. So, as such, that could be one reason Abela might want to hold off until next year.

Elections also tend to see mass gatherings. Now, whether or not such events would be able to be held regardless of the election date, remains to be seen. Indeed, the next election could be quite different from what we are used to in that regard. The health authorities would need to, at the time of such an election being called, really consider what they will and will not allow, depending on the situation at that time.

Another factor which would weigh in on the Prime Minister’s decision are the surveys.

MaltaToday’s survey last Sunday saw Opposition Leader Bernard Grech’s trust rating grow, while the Prime Minister’s reduced. It showed that Abela’s trust rating stood at 42.1% while Grech’s stood at 34.7%. While still a big lead for Abela, Grech gained just over 4.5 percentage points since December while Abela lost roughly the same amount.

If a trend is established and Grech continues to gain the people’s trust, then Abela might feel pressured to call an early election. In order for Grech to continue catching up, he would need to make a minimal number of mistakes and the Prime Minister would likely have to make a few bad decisions along the way. A lot will depend on both of their actions over the coming months.

As such, there can be no predicting whether the election will be called on schedule or earlier.

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