What is working in favour of the Partit Laburista (PL) registering another victory in the general elections around June of 2022? And, by converse, what is working against it?
It is an assessment which the Party must perforce carry out, and, in all probability, it has already started to do so. Whether of course the analysis will be objective or not in such an assessment will only emerge, as the lawyers would say, “a tempo debito”, in due time.
So what is presently – and that, given that a week is a very long time in politics, is a very important word – militating very much in favour of the PL winning again? Consider this list.
There is a fine record which the PL can justifiably brag about. It comes in terms of job retention at a time of the acute pandemic, money in workers’ pockets, and factory productivity in some sectors. There is then of course what Alfred Sant used to repeatedly, and rightly, speak of as the “power of incumbency”. It is undeniable that this is a reality. Any party in power can use, and abuse, its position, its available public resources, its powers to decide in favour of, or against, certain measures, or indeed for or against certain people.
In government the PL affected several strong changes in institutional and legal areas. Many of these were long in coming, but they are now effectively there.
And, as often, some individual ministers and MPs have put in some very fine performances during recent years: Edward Zammit Lewis, Chris Fearne, Evarist Bartolo, Clyde Caruana (even though he has only been there a short time), Deo Debattista, Roderick Galdes, and one or two others. These are certain to attract large vote counts.
So, by contrast, what is working very hard against the PL as we get nearer to the next election?
Undeniably, there is a rampant air of corruption surrounding some of the highest government and political and business echelons in the country. PM Abela has tried to make good governance his main clarion call, but the general perception, rightly or wrongly, remains that not even the surface has been scratched, a perception that has gained much ground even overseas.
There are factually increasing blocks of voters in many towns and villages who constantly speak of both inability and unwillingness of both old and new candidates to work at solving individual citizens’ problems. And naturally Nationalist Party (PN) candidates will keep exploiting these situations as much as they can.
Bernard Grech? Certainly the level of acceptance and admiration for him has worked and gnarled into that for Robert Abela. To most people, he comes over as a very honest, well-wishing, and hardworking politician. But he labours in an institution which, at times, is very much like a boxer on the ropes, even if some within it are absolutely working their guts out to get the PN’s message out to the voters.
Hampered by lack of campaigning funds. Hampered by some candidates (including some new ones) who often sound like secondary school students in a college debating class. Heavily obstructed by the incumbency element to which reference has been made above: these and several other elements all ‘labour’ (pardon the pun!) assiduously against the present PN.
On the ground, and speaking only on the basis of a scenario as being seen now, this is appearing as very much another PL victory, But what effect will any possible outcomes from the country’s courts have on possible big chunks of the electorate who are simply sitting on the sidelines to wait and see? Who would bet on such clarifying decisions changing or confirming the present political status on the ground? It would be a very courageous gambler, he who would risk his money on such developments, given also that the timing thereof is anything but a discounted reality.