The unexpected return of the NIMBY voter

Beyond the world of polls and surveys where Labour remains entrenched in a seemingly unassailable lead lies a world of politics on the ground in which the murmur of discontent can be distinctly perceived beyond the triumphant trumpeting of the incumbents.

As speculation of a November election continues to grow, Abela’s Labour is aware of new pockets of resistance that are a result of a new brand of dissatisfied citizens.

The core national vote has proven to be immune to issues such as rule of law backsliding and corruption. Whether it has succumbed to a well-oiled propaganda machine or whether this is the result of a natural order of affairs that only ceded to exceptions when big issues such as EU membership were the order of the day, we will never know.

The new Achilles heel in the unbeatable Labour machine takes the form of public space. Take the hubbub caused by the new structure in Merchants’ Street. Some crafty work by NGOs and observers pointed out the blatant abuse of the planning process that has led to what is obviously a semi-permanent structure being built bang in the middle of the Valletta thoroughfare notwithstanding clear requirements that it should be dismounted at the end of business every day.

The questions around the timing of the application, those about the start of works, the feeble defence put up by the Planning Authority and other shenanigans that are the order of the day in Labour’s Malta might have been brushed aside any other day. This time though we seem to have touched a raw nerve.

Valletta citizens were appalled by the latest affront by the authorities who seem intent to sell off every inch of public space to the private sector.

This was no complicated contract selling off prime government land at a pittance to a building magnate-cum-Party-purse-fattener. The results of the affront were immediately apparent and led to accusations of the government turning Valletta into a “prostitute” sold to the best bidder.

And it was not only Merchant’s Street. The straw that broke the camel’s back seemed to be multiplying. The Merchant’s Street debacle came hot on the heels of the proposed Marsascala marina. Again, the citizens of another proud village came together to oppose the atrocious plans that lay in store for the “development” of the place.

Ridiculous comments from the government side seemed to appeal to the newly-haves of this island who require a place where to moor their boats. Such appeals come straight from the “new middle class” declarations of the infamous and disgraced Muscat era. The core voter would previously have been charmed by promises of his induction in some new caste that revels in ideals of money and status.

Not anymore. The carrot of a supposed utopian ‘Dubai in the Mediterranean’ that had fuelled a government of crooks’ drive to power no longer seems to pacify as easily.

Look at the Comino deckchair saga. There was another area where the Ministers of the Republic attempted to minimise their appalling record of wanton destruction by alluding to some comprehensive plan that will supposedly enhance Comino’s best features.

Unlike Valletta or Marsascala, Comino does not have its own residents. It is the best example of public good – res publica – a matter for all the people to be concerned about. That concern is definitely growing.

The end of summer rains completed the picture of dissatisfaction as the network of shiny roads Ian Borg is so happy to strut about transformed into a series of canals and rivers. The emperor’s clothes… they vanish quicker than you could type Prosit Ministru.

Add to this sudden rise in anger the latest trend of ministerial grants within their electoral districts and you have a growing powder keg that would make any Guy Fawkes proud.

Jose’ Herrera’s ridiculous grant to the Marsa ‘hidden gem’ could not have been more transparent. Lighting the Mosta dome, financing of stairway embellishments, and more. Labour’s desperate prostitution of the res publica continues in the hope of buying its way to a tired third mandate.

The unexpected return of NIMBY voters might be an unpleasant surprise to Abela and his band of public money peddlers.


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