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Against all odds

Posters, affixed to the closed doors of Nationalist Party clubs as news of the Labour Party’s landslide victory emerged, read ‘we deserve better’. But who’s listening?

Posters, affixed to the closed doors of Nationalist Party clubs as news of the Labour Party’s landslide victory emerged, read ‘we deserve better’. But who’s listening?

The PN certainly isn’t. It started with Hermann Schiavone blaming the loss on “PN supporters” who chose not to vote. At the same time, he acknowledged that the PL managed to “mobilise” its core. But he fails to see the fallacy in his logic.

You can’t keep using the line that Adrian Delia was elected democratically but then refuse to accept the results of a democratic election.

An election is about choice – the voter’s choice. This is not a tribe. If you accept that premise, take it to its logical conclusion.

The choice of David Casa and Roberta Metsola is a two-finger salute to the PN, but one to Joseph Muscat too.

The two elected were the target of a vicious Labour Party campaign. So desperate was Muscat not to get them elected that, for the first time, he actually got his hands dirty in singling out Casa in his speech in the last days of the campaign.

He usually sends in his troops to do the dirty work. One of Labour’s largest online hate groups was reactivated in the lead up the election. There was a surge of activity and memes and hate, focusing on Casa and Metsola. These (below) were by Ethelbert Schembri, who was posting photos with Panama Papers Minister Konrad Mizzi after yesterday’s Labour victory.

Muscat also said that the Labour Party victory was a sign that voters did not want MEPs “working against Malta”. Yet, it is precisely for that reason that Casa and Metsola were elected – to fight those “working against Malta” by burying government corruption at all cost.

The two elected on the Opposition side were those most effective in calling out his government’s corruption. Even with a fragmented opposition, Muscat failed to get them out of the European Parliament.

He failed.

Muscat then said, “we are willing to work with the two PN MEPs”. Really? He needs them now to get that EU position he wants. Yes, in that place he told us all was against Malta’s interests, a message he sustained in the latest campaign for the European Parliament elections.

Robert Musumeci, the bright spark of Labour (or was it PN? He tends to go where the wind blows) went as far as blaming the PN defeat on a dead woman – a journalist killed under the watch of the government he so blindly (and lucratively) supports. It doesn’t get lower than that.

But the Labour Party’s choice of words as the first results started emerging – “it will be a blood bath” – doesn’t set standards much higher.

Casa and Metsola had to fight a campaign not only against the Labour Party but the PN too, whose insiders spread false rumours and candidates pushed them forward, plus a dash of the oldest tricks in the book.

Frank Psaila did not make it. Another PN candidate, Peter Agius, called PL candidate Cyrus Engerer and tried to work with him for his own advantage.

This was made public on the Labour Party’s radio station because Engerer leaked the recording. The leak was promoted by Labour Party radio host Emanuel Cuschieri on social media.

Agius issued a video later saying this was “a joke” between him and Engerer that was maliciously used by the PL’s media outfit. Then he attacked Engerer for betraying his ‘trust’. It’s the kind of manoeuvres we see from the government every day.

For all Muscat’s efforts to play down concerns about Malta’s rule of law and democracy, a dysfunctional, divided and ever-shrinking opposition – due in no small part to Labour tactics – only exacerbates these concerns.

The trademark of Casa and Metsola’s success is their battle for principle, no matter the cost. And they were rewarded because the PN leadership fails to see that this is not about them, but about the country.

What it’s looking like right now is that rabid ambition is blinding those at the helm of PN now talking about a “positive result”. Then again, they’re the same people who thought that the last PN defeat was positive news… for them. And here we are.

We keep hearing the Party talking about ‘unity’. But who really created the division?

The people’s choice of Casa and Metsola, despite two political party machines working against them, is a message the PN would do well to hear.

It is also a message to Muscat: There is a significant segment of the population in Malta that will not stop fighting the corruption his leadership has bred. That is a democracy.

Muscat may be planning a harsher clamp down after this success – the strategy by other populist leaders that he is following indicates that this would be the next move. But the Prime Minister would also do well to hear the message from those on the ground who voted for those he desperately wanted out of the European Parliament.

No matter what he does, it won’t be enough to stop them.

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