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The failed state of the man who would be il-Kink

Placard held by protestor in a week of almost daily protests demanding Joseph Muscat's resignation. Photo: Pierre Ellul.

Malta’s democracy looks like someone in the last stages of tertiary syphilis. Every organ has begun to fail, and the brain is increasingly deranged. It all started, of course, when the patient was well and truly forked — and we know who did the forking.

It sounds dramatic to say that Malta is now a dictatorship. Perhaps monarchy might be a better term for the kleptocratic rule of the incredibly-shrinking Man Who Would Be Kink?

The non-ruler who remains the ruler resigned-but-stayed last Sunday in a canned video broadcast on the Labour Party’s television station. Muscat appeared in a strangely-lit room, and caked in so much makeup he looked like he’d come from a coffin fitting.

The Prime Minister was ‘very serene’, he said, as his ‘kink-dom’ melted down around him. He also took the opportunity to issue a veiled threat, saying,  “At the same time, violence and disorder under the excuse of protest are not justified in a democracy.”

What violence? The only abuse was by their own thugs who had no place being there. The protests will not stop until this man leaves for good.

How can one both resign and remain in office as Prime Minister? Muscat proves that anything is possible — anything, that is, apart from investigating him or his closest associates. That is something he simply cannot allow.

Muscat has also decided he’s no longer accountable, having told journalists on the steps of Castile that he will no longer answer their questions.

Why should he be accountable to anyone during what he’s promised will be his last 42 days of dictatorial rule? He’s already declared that his Cabinet said they backed any decision he decides to take. How’s that for washing their hands of their responsibilities? Unfortunately, the stains on Muscat’s hands are now their stains, too.

Let’s leave aside the endless stream of broken promises that trail behind this Crime Minister like a rancid fart in a closed room: “If even a shred of evidence exists I will resign”… if Keith / Konrad  / Cardona are under investigation for Vitals / Electrogas / Panama Papers / Brothelgate or anything else, they will resign… I would definitely resign if there is any sort of association between myself and the murder…

Each line in the sand was crossed one by one, and each time, the Liar in Chief rubbed it out and redrew it somewhere else. And now he’s promising to leave — but not until mid-January. The obvious question to ask is, why should we believe anything he tells us?

Muscat also said that during the next month, he will limit himself to the day-to-day operations of the government. It’s helpful to remember just how many ‘responsibilities’ he’s folded into the Office of the Prime Minister. He has now personally assumed responsibility for financial services, crypto, tourism, private-public partnerships (ie Electrogas and Vitals), Malta enterprise (including cannabis), and citizenship and visas.

And that’s beyond the alarming centralisation of powers — including the ability to personally appoint just about anyone who matters — that the Venice Commission and the Council of Europe warned about in their detailed reports on Malta.

Muscat’s strategy of taking over the institutions one by one has paid off. The Police Commissioner, Attorney General, Head of the Army, and the Heads of every regulatory body all answer directly to him.

Populists need to keep a tight reign on the system, including the judiciary, to avoid being punished. That’s why they cling to power. Not because they want to remake society to match some ideologically-deranged fascist or communist utopia, but to protect the guilty from punishment.

But what happens when they leave office and no longer wield that power? Some of those risks can be addressed by appointing loyal individuals to key roles, using State structures and legal means to achieve corrupt ends.

But they can also do it by compromising individuals in some way so that their hands are dirty, too. As the novelist Philip Roth said, “It’s what the mafia does. You give someone something they can’t talk about, and you’ve got them.”

Muscat has made himself untouchable. The only people who can remove him — his Cabinet — won’t. They’ve apparently voted their unanimous support for him again and again. Is it because of the dirt they’re afraid he’d reveal as some form of petty revenge?

So far the police haven’t removed him either when they have every reason to question him in connection with the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. We can only speculate as to why that is.

And don’t expect any help from the European Union. At best, they’ve got the power to impose Article 7, which if applied would suspend Malta’s voting rights, a move that does nothing to stop Muscat or get his hands off a murder investigation that implicates his closest friends and possibly himself.

As Council of Europe Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt told The Shift, “Do not expect international bodies to ride to the rescue – it is not going to happen and it would be a mistake if it did. European institutions will help but this is a Maltese problem and it needs a Maltese solution, one that the Maltese people can own.”

The protestors who fill Valletta each night are making their voices heard and demanding change, and they aren’t going away until they achieve it.

Unfortunately, the country may be beyond saving. That will certainly be the case if this drags on for much longer. As the consequences of his corruption start crashing down the damage will spread, from the Bank of Valletta (soon to be without US dollar correspondent banking relationships) to online gambling, from passport peddling to illicit land grabs. Rather than come in and repair the damage, the next government will need to gut the structure entirely in order to rebuild.

Malta is now a failed State run by an organised crime syndicate, and Muscat is hell-bent on saving his own skin.

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