Channelling an ageing rockstar that’s eager to play all the hits, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has begun his farewell tour with his would-be successors Chris Fearne and Robert Abela.
As puzzling as the celebrations might be, the three of them smiling and holding hands while the Office of the Prime Minister is linked to the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia at least confirms one thing, Muscat staying on means the Labour Party’s leadership race is already heavily compromised.
Muscat’s resignation should be no cause for celebration. He has stepped down in disgrace with members of his office, including himself and his former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, potentially linked to the assassination.
Whoever Muscat’s successor might be, the next Prime Minister will face the daunting task of ensuring justice takes place and start rebuilding trust among a nation who has lost complete faith in authorities.
Fearne and Abela know that. They’ve made it known to Muscat in private. However, they both are still very much aware that if they want to be Malta’s next Prime Minister they will need Muscat’s backing.
While Muscat will claim that opening the leadership election to all paid-up members is a democratic move, his farewell tour is just a reminder to both Fearne and Abela of the intense loyalty he enjoys among the Labour Party supporters who are set to vote them into power on 12th January.
The visits, Muscat knows, provide him with the perfect platform to campaign across Malta, speak to paid-up members and push for his desired successor to get the post.
The shocking testimonies of Melvin Theuma and Yorgen Fenech prove that the next Prime Minister must make the government clean-up a priority, and that includes Muscat.
However, Fearne and Abela will probably spend the next month singing Muscat’s praises, while pleading with his canvassers to back their bid to become the Labour Party’s next leader.
Meanwhile, forcing Fearne and Abela to declare their loyalty and embrace the out-going leader leaves a nation unsure on who exactly is Muscat’s (or rather Schembri’s) man for the job?
And we’re not even sure if Muscat will stay on as an MP, cryptically telling crowds that he will “no longer be the captain, but [he] will remain a sailor”. Just imagine, if you thought we were returning back to the eighties, we might even end up with our very own Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici-Dom Mintoff partnership.
Muscat’s resignation was meant to assure a nation that justice will be served. But how on earth can we believe that either Fearne or Abela will take the necessary action when they’re too busy adulating their former comrade?
Yes, both men are desperate to get elected but the time for politicking is over. An end to impunity is a must before the country can even start thinking about moving forward, and people need to believe that either Fearne or Abela can deliver it.
The political crisis has left the nation with nothing but questions. Smiling and waving with Muscat as if everything is business as usual is not the answer we are looking for.
To be fair, Abela did warn the country about “a pact with a devil”, but who knew we would all be able to see it on a podium in Ħaż-Żebbuġ.
Whatever happens in the election, the victor is going to be in debt to Muscat, and it’s the country who will pay the price.