2018 has been a hell of a year for news and current events. We’ve had some serious stuff, such as inquiries with no end in sight, controversial construction projects, avoidable and tragic deaths… and Nas Daily.
We also had some light-hearted fun, such as the Maltese coming together to help a groom find his bride’s dress, Konrad Mizzi letting his hair down at the Lost & Found festival, priests being towed in Porsches and University lecturers kindly sharing their porn history.
If 2018 is anything to go by, we’re in for a ball in 2019. These are our predictions for what’s going down over the next year.
1. Labour Party wins five seats in MEP elections
The MEP elections are due in May, and six seats are up for grabs. PN incumbents Roberta Metsola, David Casa and Francis Zammit Dimech will all be seeking re-election, as will some new additions such as lawyer and journalist Frank Psaila, and most notably Michael Briguglio, who had previously been chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika for two decades.
Labour’s MEP candidates will include incumbent Miriam Dalli and newcomers such as choreographer Felix Busuttil, lawyer and former president of Labour’s youth section Alex Saliba and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s special envoy to the EU, Cyrus Engerer.
Lovin Malta predicts that Labour will win five of six available seats, with Miriam Dalli leading the pack and Roberta Metsola winning the PN seat.
2. Adrian Delia steps down after a tragic drumming at the polls
PN leader Adrian Delia has already stated he will not resign regardless of the MEP election results. That said, it would be hard to retain his position if the Labour Party has a resounding victory. Going with current polls, it looks like that this will be the case.
Of course this also depends on whether a viable alternative for the PN leadership position exists. Not many people seem ready to succeed Delia, though insiders have floated the name of lawyer Bernard Grech as a potential candidate.
3. Joseph Muscat will leave on a high and trigger a leadership race
Once the MEP elections are in the bag, Joseph Muscat will be able to leave office on the highest of notes. He has already voiced this intention in the past, though the latest messages are mixed and there’s no knowing with certainty what he will do.
That said, this will be the perfect opportunity for Muscat to tie up his legacy in Maltese politics, with an eye towards the presidency of the European Council. That would also allow him to somewhat bury a tumultuous past that was tainted with the Egrant allegations, the Panama Papers which implicated Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, and the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
4. A new PL leader will succeed Muscat…potentially one we haven’t considered yet
Muscat’s leaving will trigger a leadership contest within the Labour Party that will define the party for the next five to ten years. Likely candidates have already been mentioned. Miriam Dalli seems out, leaving Deputy Leader Chris Fearne, Transport Minister Ian Borg and potentially Labour MP Robert Abela in the running. The race would likely be a close call between Fearne and Borg.
But a previously unconsidered candidate might very well come forward too. We are also yet to see who Muscat would support, so that might also have some bearing on the race.
5. President will be replaced by Evarist Bartolo
Next year will see President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca’s term come to an end. Her replacement isn’t clear-cut, but current Education Minister Evarist Bartolo is being touted for the role.
That would make sense. Bartolo represents the more traditional Labour faction and he is respected across the board.
6. Keith Schembri will leave, but Konrad Mizzi will stay
With Muscat out, Keith Schembri will likely move to pastures new. The new Labour leader will want to mitigate the damage that the Panama Papers have brought on the party, and Muscat leaving would be the perfect opportunity for a harmonious exit of his confidant, at least officially. It would remain to be seen if Schembri’s influence and contribution would continue in the background.
The situation might be different for Konrad Mizzi, especially because he still enjoys huge support within the party and with the electorate. Whether he stays or goes will likely depend on his intentions.
7. The Archbishop will leave Malta
Archbishop Charles Scicluna is highly respected in the international catholic community. For over a decade he was a chief prosecutor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that processes sex abuse cases globally. Recently, he was given an even more prominent role by being appointed deputy, or adjunct secretary, of the Congregation.
His new role already required Archbishop Scicluna to travel constantly, so it is not unfathomable to expect his new role might require him to relinquish the position of Archbishop over the coming year.
8. A breakthrough in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder investigation
Over a year has passed from the tragic murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. So far we’ve had arrests of the alleged executors of the murder and reports of progress as to identifying the alleged mastermind(s).
That said, there is still a long way as to closure being reached, and details about who ordered the murder and the motive are still scant.
Lovin Malta predicts, and indeed hopes, that over the coming 12 months there will be a considerable breakthrough in Caruana Galizia’s murder investigation.
9. Neville Gafà will be transferred, again
The enigmatic former Health Ministry and OPM official made news towards the end of the year over a questionable trip to Libya in a ‘personal capacity’ which also him brushing elbows with influential and controversial figures and militia leaders. Gafà had previously been in the news over an alleged medical visa scandal after a Libyan whistleblower came forward with the claims.
Both the Health Ministry and the OPM distanced themselves by claiming he works in neither department, though it is likely that he still holds a government position of some sort. It remains to be seen what position Gafà occpuies.
Lovin Malta predicts that Gafà will also be transferred once again over the course of 2019.
10. A breakthrough in the 17 Black Inquiry
In 2018 we found out that 17 Black, the company that was listed as a main target client that will send funds to the tune of $150,000 a month to each of the companies owned by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, is owned by Tumas Group CEO Yorgen Fenech.
Fenech is one of the shareholders of the Electrogas project. An inquiry has since been launched into 17 Black which will likely also follow any threads leading to Hearnville and Tillgate, the companies owned by Schembri and Mizzi respectively. The inquiry may also reveal, or spin-off a new inquiry into, Macbridge, another company that was listed in the leaked Panama Papers emails.
Lovin Malta predicts a breakthrough and potentially the conclusion of the inquiry.
11. Progress on the constitutional reform
A constitutional reform has been on the cards for a while and the initial steps are already in progress. Representatives have been appointed by both major parties and discussions will likely kick off properly over the coming year.
It’s an ambitious progress, not least because it would require a two-thirds majority approval in Parliament, but it is fair to expect that progress on this front will be made.