An unhealthy level of psychopathy is required to speak the way Robert Abela did yesterday about the speculation over the last several weeks on an early election date. It may not be entirely unreasonable to accuse the PN of betraying frayed nerves about an election date set sooner than they’d have liked it to be. One may even be justified in complaining about sections of the media twisting themselves into knots quoting sources who claim to be informed more than they really are throwing dates around as if they were speculating about a gunshot wedding.

But ultimately the only person who can be certain of an election date before it’s announced is the prime minister. However informed those close to him might claim to be when they speak to their reporter friends on or off the record, the prime minister’s prerogative in this regard is so royal, so absolute, so unqualified, that no one can be right until the letter of the prime minister to the president leaves the former’s desk and reaches the latter’s.

If Robert Abela had been as certain as he now claims to have been that an election would not be called before Christmas and if he was really as concerned that the PN’s panic could harm Christmas shopping as he now says he was, all he needed to do was speak up. All Robert Abela needed to do is what he eventually did a few days ago and say, look, the election date is up to me, and it’s not going to happen this year.

It’s impossible to know what he was thinking as front pages played a daily lottery. Had he indeed decided there wouldn’t be an election or was he still keeping options open? The difference would matter in an assessment of Robert Abela’s decision making process and abilities. On several other occasions his defining characteristic has been hesitancy. Frustrated collaborators say he listens to everyone and eventually decides to do what his father tells him to do. But for as long as options remains available to him he will postpone his decision in the hope that events decide outcomes for him.

In any case, on just about the last day on which it was possible for Robert Abela to order a 2021 election, his decision was not to do it. It’s what came after that that is particularly galling.

He’s lashing out at the PN for expecting an election accusing the opposition party of “being negative”, for it is negative to even expect an election. The PN is looking forward to the next poll as much as it might look forward to a hole in the head. They have no reason to be optimistic about the outcome and even if they did they are in no mood to realise it. The PN publicly braced itself for a swift and heavy fall of the axe which the prime minister has lifted over its neck and the prime minister is calling out the PN for tensing up in expectation.

The real damage is not just the mind-fucks Robert Abela inflicts on the opposition. Some would call that fair game in the mindless tribal warfare that passes for politics in this village. He was mind-fucking the public as well. His own supporters were mobilised to DEFCON-4. One TV went all Pravda. In no time the tension spread to innocent bystanders.

Because elections in this country are scorched earth doomsday scenarios, even ones where the outcome is as predictable as a stinking smell is likely to follow a rumbling noise from inside the body of your office colleague who has just consumed a curry delivered from a cheap takeaway, people postpone all sorts of decisions until “the election is over”.

It should properly be weird but even Robert Abela yesterday confirmed that we live in a country where people decide whether to do more or less Christmas shopping on the basis of whether an election is happening in November or in February. By any objective standard, that’s insane.

Why should one hold on to a decision on whether to employ people, or to book a holiday, or to put a deposit on a house and apply for a mortgage, because Labour might get reconfirmed to power in November, but go ahead with one’s spending plans if one is assured the election won’t be happening until after Christmas?

And yet this is the reality we live in. This too is our country.

And yet Robert Abela let speculation spin into a frenzy about the matter whether because he could not make up his mind about what suited his interests best or because his interests were best served by everyone else running around in a panic as if they had just spotted Joshua from atop the high walls of Jericho.

As Robert Abela accuses everyone but himself of escalating election-timing tension he ignores the fact that the only one that is truly responsible for it is the only one with the power to stop it, himself. If he alone can decide the date, he alone can decide not to have it before Christmas. He didn’t until days ago, so here we are.

Is this the end of the world? No, it will pass. But outside of a dysfunctional and abusive marriage this gaslighting would not work twice. Robert Abela kicked us in the nuts and is now accusing us of putting our groin in the way of his boot.

We truly have an odd relationship with power in this country. We think we have a prime minister, and hearing him prattle on about “national interest” and “enjoying Christmas” you’d expect a modicum of normality from him. And yet, when we’re abused this way, made to dance as he fires gun shots randomly at our feet, we don’t realise that we’re governed by an infant who has just discovered how to get mummy to do what they want.