Robert Abela yesterday challenged the opposition party to back him on major policy fronts. He inherited from his predecessor an opposition that did that, so he expects no less now that there’s a different leader of the opposition. One can only hope the opposition doesn’t dance to his tune.

The PN’s decision to withdraw their support for John Mamo’s confirmation as MFSA chairman was the right decision. Do not underestimate its significance. Since the very early 1990s, the two parties have tried to put forward a united front on financial services. Laws were usually introduced without controversy and senior appointments were usually made by consensus.

But the last 8 years have shown what a corrupt government can do with that consensus. It can exploit an opposition party’s reluctance to rake the muck to allow illegal conduct and go on as if nothing is out of place.

John Mamo’s “no regrets” message at his confirmation hearing sent all the wrong signals. The MFSA allowed the good name of Malta’s financial service industry to be squandered damaging the prospects of the entire industry. But the real crowning moment of this disaster was the hiring of Joseph Cuschieri as its chief executive. Even after the discovery of his Las Vegas trip with Yorgen Fenech, John Mamo felt he had no reason to express regret.

Now Robert Abela is asking for the opposition’s support for his renewed passport-selling scheme. This is even a bigger ask than consensus in financial services. The PN has been against the sale of citizenships when it was in government before 2013, while Simon Busuttil was the leader of the opposition and even while Adrian Delia ran the show.

The prime minister is asking the PN for a U-turn, to now back the idea that Maltese citizenship could be traded as a commodity, sold to people entirely unconnected to the country so that they can use it to whatever end their own citizenship could not reach. Too often that end is criminal or illicit. Too often it ends up besmirching the good standing of Malta and the Maltese in the eyes of the world.

Robert Abela doesn’t care. He expects the PN not to care either.

The other topic Robert Abela expects the opposition’s support in is migration. Robert Abela wants “a spirit of unity” when facing down emaciated children, women and men running from misery, torture, slavery and likely early death on little rafts and dinghies for which they paid with all they had.

Robert Abela wants the opposition to back him when he orders the army to hold back while migrants’ rafts take water or when he puts migrants on water-locked prisons indefinitely denying them access to even their most basic rights. He wants the opposition to back him when he calls the Libyan coastguard to enter Malta’s search and rescue area to drag escaping migrants back to slavery and inhuman conditions in Libyan camps.

One can only hope they don’t give him that backing.