There are always undercurrents and different views within a political party, especially one the size of our two parties that aspire (and in Labour’s case now consistently win) more than half of all the votes cast in the country. That’s more than any political party in any other European democracy. There are and will always be power struggles and incoherent interests of different participants.
Having said that, I can’t think of anything of a scale comparable to what is happening in the Labour Party right now. Joseph Muscat, the party’s former leader, is actively seeking to undermine Robert Abela’s effort to drop candidates that are not loyal to the new party leader. That’s something not seen since Malta’s Independence Parliament.
No one failed to note Joseph Muscat’s walkabout in the second district last Saturday helping Glenn Bedingfield to hold on to his support base and avoid the risk of its erosion and transfer in the direction of Robert Abela’s sister-in-law.
Sunday, Joseph Muscat rallied Rosianne Cutajar’s supporters. That decision is particularly egregious. Robert Abela kicked Rosianne Cutajar out of government the moment evidence emerged that she took cash from Yorgen Fenech, the man awaiting trial for killing Daphne Caruana Galizia. Out of government, Rosianne Cutajar had to defend herself from the findings of the Commissioner and the Committee for Standards in Public Life without the benefit of the obligation on her former cabinet colleagues to stand by her.
With or without the obligations of convention, Joseph Muscat’s loyalists defended Rosianne Cutajar. Glenn Bedingfield and Edward Zammit Lewis, Muscatian henchmen to the core, protected Rosianne Cutajar from consequences even after evidence emerged the woman accepted gifts and payments from Yorgen Fenech and without declaring her relationship with him defended him in Malta’s Parliament and at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. They defended her in spite of evidence that she brokered a property deal for Yorgen Fenech without declaring her income.
She lied and she got caught. And her lies weren’t superficial. Her lies were about a relationship “of friendship” with an (alleged) journalist killer.
Robert Abela did his best to ditch her, though to be fair his best is a half-hearted attempt at reducing her electoral charges without taking any risk of political harm to himself. Robert Abela never had anything like the courage or will he needed to distance himself and his party from the decadent atrocities of the government run by his predecessor and which he supported in Parliament and advised as Joseph Muscat’s personal attorney sitting on Cabinet Meetings.
Half-hearted is not enough for Joseph Muscat. Even though he resigned from government in 2019, he needs Labour’s next Parliamentary Group to remain like this one, loyal to his interests about the interests of prime minister, party, or country. Joseph Muscat comes first. He’s the kink after all. (Not a typo.)
Something very dangerous for the country is taking shape. Labour will win the next election, fine. But Robert Abela will lose it to Joseph Muscat. The Labour Party will lose the government to Joseph Muscat’s criminal cabal.
Daphne’s killers, and their friends and their enablers, are working to repeat their 2017 elections success. They are working to win the next one.
And here’s an additional note. If 2017 has taught us anything, it’s that the electoral plans of Joseph Muscat never stop at the outcome of an election, to be followed by the serene governance of the country. A big part of the plan is what happens after. The 2017 playbook tells us what to expect: the kindling of a visceral internal conflict within the PN and the elimination of the PN’s leadership as a punishment for having stood up to Labour, and lost.
The worst nightmare is one you recognise for having already slept through before.