Muscat’s single most important objective now must be to retain power by averting and / or neutralising the effect of the corruption allegations levelled at him (Schembri and Mizzi) during his first term. He needs to deal with, at least, four fronts:
§ The courts of law: Here he will probably rely on the natural pedantic nature of Malta’s judicial process, which in the best of circumstances is unlikely to deliver a final verdict quickly. The need for solid proof in a case fraught with technical accounting and IT intricacies (well outside the usual competence and experience of any judicator) does not bode well for a successful prosecution by a dissuaded, incompetent or unwilling Commissioner of Police or Attorney General. At his disposal, Muscat has the ability to make many subtle and not so subtle moves to obstruct the course of justice, for example, disconcerting the part time court IT expert by demoting his position with his full time employer MITA. Look out for more subterfuge of this nature as the saga plays out over the coming months and years.
§ The court of public opinion: The electorate has spoken. The opposition has just been heavily trounced by 55% of the electorate. The voting majority have shown that it ranks immediate economic wellbeing, improved social services, LGBT rights etc higher than the integrity of our executive and the real independence of our democratic institutions. So be it, that is unlikely to change for the next five years unless something unexpected happens in the meantime.
§ The international community: It is likely that Muscat does not give much weight to the negative outcome he anticipates from the EU committees and assemblies. He knows the system well enough to detract and delay criticism from this direction and seems quite confident that no bite will follow the bark. He also knows that compared to other irregularities committed by other leaders on the world stage, his are mere peccadillos and of no threat to other countries. The only danger lies in the possibility that competing jurisdictions use the unfortunate discovery of his unethical behaviour to prompt direct or indirect sanctions. But this can be countered with the right spin and other damage control tactics such as the visit to Betsson’s on Monday 5th June.
§ The political opposition: The Forza Nazzjonali and the media that supported it is currently in disarray and lacks the capability to inflict much damage in the short term. Muscat’s tactics here will include red herrings to distract from the real issues, attribution of unpatriotic and malevolent motives to justify his actions, small innocuous gestures to appear benevolent whilst all the while continuing to gain control of those democratic institutions that may lead to determining his culpability and / or loss of power.
In the meantime, his able team of cabinet ministers will continue to maintain the country’s economic wellbeing and emotional serenity in line with the PL electoral manifest that will be surely deemed to be 90% completed by the next election. Today, I will not comment on opportunities to populate bank accounts with Pilatus bank or elsewhere that may arise on the way.