The new prime minister kept an entire country waiting for almost an hour longer than the announced time for his inaugural “address to the nation”.
Before he came on, TVM played a soft-porn rendition of the national anthem intended to remind us, as if anyone needed reminding, that this was still the same government of the prime minister who addressed the nation last December announcing he would resign sandwiched between two runs of another soft-porn rendition of the national anthem.
Then Robert Abela came on. Robot Abela rather. He could not have looked more artificial if he was oiled up for a body building competition. He was presumably reading from a teleprompter but there was the sing song in his voice of an amateur reading somebody else’s script like the altar boy that memorised, poorly, last year’s sermon for the Christmas midnight mass.
He was framed against the prime minister’s studio and the cabinet room in Castille. The office was disturbingly and suspiciously clinically empty and in picture perfect order, especially given all the activity earlier today. The background was soulless, frigid, funereal like a reconstructed room in a folklore museum of a city on the edge of never. That was the background.
The foreground was the new prime minister: soulless, frigid, funereal like a hundred-year-old cybernetic being with perfectly synthetic and taught skin and with eyes quivering with the fear of redundancy.
The point is Robot Abela made us wait for so long to tell us absolutely nothing. He had no message to give us except to renew the glorious victory of the Labour Party from June 2017. It is the same victory that supporters and well-wishers that gathered outside the Palace and outside Castille today were still apparently celebrating.
There was no intrinsic motive for his own premiership, no personal vision, no hopes, no ambition, no desire. He did not even manage to look excited about his new job.
You would expect someone who becomes prime minister to have waited all their life for their chance to realise their dreams for the country. Surely if he wanted to be the most powerful man in the country, he imagined having the job to actually do something with it. His father, George Abela, told TVM today his son was “always his own man”. Not tonight he wasn’t. The new prime minister had nothing of his own to offer in his first chance to do so to the people he now rules over with the powers of a monarch.
Robot Abela had no explanation for the purpose of his existence. He offered no single reason why he was the one speaking tonight and not Joseph Muscat. He sought to imitate his mentor’s gestures. He sang from his mentor’s hymn book. He spoke of the achievements of his predecessor but had nothing to say about the ones he hopes will be his own.
A country lost, confused, disappointed and afraid after the last two months looked on him tonight to give reassuring guidance, to point us to the city on a hill he means to lead us to. But he has no city in mind. He is not pointing us to a future. He points us instead to the “rebħa kbira” of June 2017. He points us instead back to the glorious victory of Joseph Muscat which is the only legitimacy, such as it is, that he can claim for his being there.
Set in Robot Abela’s plastic face, we saw his unsmiling eyes shift nervously, flickering dimly as Joseph Muscat danced inside the head of his avatar.
No wonder the new prime minister refused to give interviews during his campaign. Even in a controlled environment, protected from the aggression of proper journalists, sheltered from the breeze of public opinion, he passed on the opportunity to actually say something. Because he has nothing to say.
Before the soft-porn Innu Malti came on again there was only one thought in many people’s minds. We still have Joseph Muscat to deal with.
This guy is just a mask.