The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

Tell us what will happen afterwards

Noel Grima Sunday, 12 September 2021, 08:00 Last update: about 8 days ago

The way ahead seems pretty clear, to the prime minister at least. As in all the countries that do not have fixed terms (like the US for instance) it is the prime minister's prerogative to hold the election on a date chosen by him.

Robert Abela says the election will be held when it's the country's advantage to hold it but that's a fiction. No other head of government that I can think of uses this hypocrisy. The election will be held when it's to Robert Abela's advantage, no more no less.


The signs are all that the election is fast approaching. The signs are all that the election will be held this year rather than next year.

The two main parties will be holding mass gatherings or mass meetings around Independence Day, we read this week, whatever the restrictions on mass gatherings will say. Paceville has never restricted mass gatherings but festas remained banned for the second year running.

Other countries have also been removing restrictions.

If the decision to hold the election has been taken in the prime minister's mind, not even the Pope's reported visit will constitute an impediment. Whether to visit when the country is in election mood is something that the Pope must decide. And will he speak about corruption if he does come?

Seeing the prime minister is so adamant about holding an early election one is fully justified in asking why. In 2017 Joseph Muscat stage-managed a huge 1st May mass meeting to announce the election. He gave as his justification the claim Egrant was his wife's. We now know there were other reasons and people around him were tailoring their own plans (to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia) taking into account the election date.

This time there is no Egrant claim and we surely hope there are no plans to kill somebody. So we can all the more ask: what's the urgency? Especially when all the polls speak of a Robert Abela massive win.

Abela has been in office for a year and a half and he is still struggling to come out of Joseph Muscat's shadow. Maybe he is still hampered by left-overs from Muscat's Cabinet and doesn't want to wait anymore before bringing in a new breed of politicians not linked to the Muscat 'corrupt' one. (That is also something that his counterpart, Bernard Grech, would also like to do).

But an election is a rather strange way of engineering a turnover of this kind. For a leader may find that those he most wished to see off come back with a vengeance. There are too many precedents to list here.

One huge issue that will have to be faced after the election is coming out of the FATF grey-listing but I doubt if that can be achieved by simply waiting for the election to do the heavy-lifting. FATF would want to see serious curbs on corruption brought in and even more to see the current backlog of cases in court brought to judgement. So far, the number of people found guilty is very low.

This is still a long way off operating a thorough cleaning of the whole financial sector and I doubt if that can be achieved with just a couple of unfortunate culprits. The authorities in the sector need a thorough clean-up too and have proved to be inadequate to the task they were set up for.

The above is not to say that Abela will do what is asked of him: on the contrary, his past and his friendship with some of those suspected of corruption could prove the contrary.

The second thing to await after the election is what will happen with regards to Covid. So far, the picture is rather complicated. In the opinion of most Maltese the steps undertaken to combat Covid are satisfactory and the figures for the vaccinated would seem to support this but the figures for the infections and the dead are still high by international comparison.

What will happen after the election? Will the government introduce more curbs? Will it bring some order in the rank disorder eg in Paceville which undermine all the hard work of the health sector?

Finally, the economy. In timeless fashion the pre-election Budget will be a no-tax one, maybe with some sweeteners thrown in. Again, the next Budget after the election will be one to address the deficit deviation get the finances of the country back to the straight and the narrow.

Apart from this macro-economic point of view, there are many areas of the economy that require seeing to, from the poor without rent-free residence, the pensioners who do not make it to the end of the month, and those who were saved by the government's help which is now being wound down.

The government has put in millions to plug the most immediate needs and this has affected the national economy but many sectors are still operating at a fraction of their usual output.

And some sectors, construction being the main one, have been operating in super-production, which causes havoc to the country's environment.

With more and more people flocking to Malta with very light checks and controls, again one will have to await the period after the election to find out what will happen.

For this is what happens when the election is commandeered by a government to pump up support and to sweep dust and dirt under the carpet, when the aim of the election is to ensure yet another term at the trough and not to allow people to take the proper decisions that the country needs.

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