The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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Why the polls got it so wrong

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 23 June 2024, 08:50 Last update: about 24 days ago

Everybody was stunned. Nobody was expecting the catastrophe that befell Labour on 8th June.  Labour was guaranteed a massive victory by all the polls - Maltatoday, it-Torca, the Times.  The only question was how massive Labour’s majority would be. 

Labour was so arrogantly confident of another landslide that they held a celebratory concert two days before election day. Not even the PN could believe their eyes as the gap between the two parties shrunk and shrunk as Sunday wore on. 

When the official results finally came out Labour had lost its fourth seat.  It lost its absolute majority.  It lost tens of thousands of voters. And Robert Abela lost his mojo. 

Labour was left with just a 3.2% advantage.  That equates to a mere 8,454 votes. That’s less than the number of spoilt ballots cast. If those invalid votes had gone to the PN, Labour would have been defeated entirely. The difference between the two parties is now so tight that a mere 1.6% swing is enough for the PN to triumph.  The two parties are practically neck and neck.

Yet nobody saw it coming. Not that there wasn’t enough reason for the whole country to punish Labour for the devastating corruption it orchestrated. But we’d become accustomed to the electorate voting in droves for the most rotten candidates.  Nobody expected this time to be any different.  Besides, all the polls reassured Labour that victory was in the bag.  The election was just another boring exercise.  The only bets being placed were on how massive Labour’s win would be.

If 34,246 voters were planning to abandon Labour, how come none of the polls picked it up? The answer is simple: fear. 

Most are simply too afraid to declare that they are not Labour, will not vote Labour or, horror of horrors, might even vote PN. When people were called, even privately, as part of those surveys, many were wary of giving an honest answer. They were suspicious the woman at the end of the line might not be who she claimed.  She might be somebody working for Labour, a customer care officer, somebody from Castille. Admitting you’re not voting Labour would be suicidal.

The country knows about the rampant cronyism.  You’re not going to get what you need if you’re not Labour.

The whole nation knows what happened to Giovann Vella, the Gozitan contractor who reported Evarist Bartolo’s canvasser for attempting to bribe him.  He was relentlessly hounded by the police and charged with defamation.  The whole nation knows what happened to Daphne Caruana Galizia.  They see on a daily basis the vitriol heaped on David Casa and Roberta Metsola.  The country knows the misery Labour will put anybody who dares criticise the government through. The daily abuse by Labour’s trolls, both online and in person, fuelled by ONE’s relentless demonisation of Labour critics is toxic.

The people know that expressing anti-Labour sentiment can cost you, dearly.  Everybody knows who all the direct contracts go to.  They’re not going to anybody expressing the slightest view critical of Labour.  Neither are the cushy jobs, the social housing apartments, or the promotions.

Being labelled anti-Labour could destroy not only your life but also the lives of your family. Either through being unfairly overlooked for deserved positions, promotions or tenders or through intimidation and threats, you will pay.

Nobody is surprised the polls got it so wrong.  Those “don’t knows” and “won’t vote” didn’t all not know, didn’t all plan not to vote.  Many of them knew and planned to vote but were too afraid to say so.

We’re back to the 1980s when the reign of terror, the atmosphere of fear violated an entire nation. We lived through those times, when even buying a newspaper was conducted in top secrecy for fear that somebody in the street might see you carrying the “In-taghna” or even “the Times”.  The names of private school teachers were listed in Labour party clubs.  Workers who chose to strike on L-Imnarja were beaten up, abused and transferred.

Images of Labour hooligans, chanting offensively in front of the court and hailing Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat as heroes brought back those raw emotions, the acute anxiety and trepidation.  It brought back the chaos, the desperation, the helplessness.  And we’re back there.  University Students publicly stated that students are too afraid to protest for fear of losing job opportunities, of being targeted or of their families being victimised.

Robert Abela’s vicious attacks on the magistrate, the judiciary, journalists, the media and everybody else sends shivers down people’s spines, worrying what might come next. Gone is Labour’s false promise “you might not agree with us but you can work with us”.  Gone too is the inclusive movement, that welcomed everybody. No more is Labour trying to attract the likes of Lou Bondi, Robert Musumeci, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Jesmond Mugliett, Cyrus Engerer.

The mask is now off. It’s now Labour against everybody.  Everybody is the “cruel establishment” - from students, the church, the banking unions, the judiciary, the media, the Malta chamber. Of course nobody wants to declare they’ll vote against Labour.  They know what will happen.  They’ll be labelled traitors and part of the establishment. Robert Abela has managed to pick a fight with everybody. Now he’s even picking on his own - Roderick Galdes, Daniel Micallef, Randolph DeBattista.

What decides elections are not the diehards on either side - it’s the moderates who switch camps. And they don’t want chaos and hubris that Robert Abela offers.  They want stability, quiet, calm, competent leadership - not puerile belligerent bullies.  They want a stable country that attracts foreign investment and that promises prosperity.

They’re tired of the constant offence.  They can’t take Labour’s ridiculous campaign calling Metsola a warmonger who wants to send your children to fight distant wars and who bombs children.  And they showed it.  Those 90,000 votes for Metsola are not a solid victory for Labour as Robert Abela falsely claimed - they’re a devastating condemnation of his politics of fear.

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