This week sees the Labour Party celebrating the second anniversary since the election of Robert Abela as leader of the Labour Party and, by default, Prime Minister of Malta. Two and a half years ago, it was next to impossible to predict such a major turn of events and few, if any, political commentators or activists would have dreamed of such an outcome.
The question at this point is simple, really.
Were these two years of Robert Abela’s premiership a plus for the Labour Party and the country in general?
Naturally, an honest answer to such a pointed question would be invariably subjective and would depend entirely on the person or group of persons answering it.
It is no secret within Labour Party structures that yours truly had different ideas about who would be an ideal leader of the Labour Party after the resignation of the previous leader.
I knew Chris Fearne on a personal basis since both our days within the Party’s youth structure. He campaigned in my electoral district and my team and I were part of his machine which ensured that he got elected with top, record votes on his two electoral districts. My team and I were also in the forefront of the campaigning which also saw Fearne being elected as Deputy Leader and, thus, Deputy Prime Minister.
When it came to the leadership contest, Robert Abela proved to be the better man. Not only because of his aptitude and preparedness for the post and all his personal positives. Which he has in abundance as these two years have shown. Robert Abela was also elected leader due to a litany of wrong judgements and over-confident decisions meted out by the other side. But that is another story for another day.
Rallying Behind the Leader
What is striking about Robert Abela’s leadership ascension is that the Labour Party had a whole list of dedicated personalities, all of them heavyweights, who were potential choices to lead the party and the nation.
Even before the actual leadership election itself, the names of Robert Abela, Chris Fearne, Miriam Dalli and Ian Borg were being touted as potential candidates for the job. Spoilt for choice is an expression which immediately comes to mind. Now compare and contrast this phenomenon with the situation within the opposition party. Three leaders within one legislature. With names for leadership material with literally no experience whatsoever in their own party structures and parliamentary proceedings.
Also striking within this context is the party’s unity and the rallying behind its leadership. As soon as Dr. Abela took hold of the reins of leadership, the case was closed and a united party in government hit the ground running in order to ensure the continuation of projecting and executing the Party’s manifesto and implementing even more needed changes within the structures of our country.
The age-old battle cry of Labour, namely to aid and assist those in need and the vulnerable within society, continued to be the ashlar on which all government initiatives would be based. No internal purges were orchestrated. The door was open for anyone of goodwill to work alongside these common goals.
The door was open for anyone of goodwill to work alongside the common goals.
Within days of Dr Abela’s election, I was in his office in Castille together with my associates in order to discuss the bringing over to Malta of direct foreign investment which would benefit the economy as a whole.
Again, compare this leadership approach with the situation within the opposition party. Dirty and nasty coup d’etats which managed to oust a democratically elected leader of the opposition. Bloody witch hunts and tribal groupings of factions within factions within the same party, all doing their utmost to ensnare and trip up their supposed colleagues within their own party.
Incredible and illogical U-turns on major policy and practice by the sitting leader simply because those who put him there run the shots. And an inexorable exodus of resignations throughout the nationalist party on a weekly basis right up to this week throughout the whole party hierarchy: parliamentarians, party officials, delegates, councillors, employees and tesserati.
Thirty five years ago…
Robert Abela’s leadership in these two years will also be giving Labour Party supporters something which they had last attained thirty five years ago: a full five-year term in office. Meaning dedication. Meaning stability. Meaning perseverance.
All this during a two year old international pandemic which totally destroyed on a universal basis the way of life and mores and customs that everyone was familiar with.
All this with an opposition which is hell-bent in taking back the reins of power it so clearly and dearly desires.
Being appointed Prime Minister just weeks before the outbreak of the COVID–19 pandemic is not something to look forward to. But Abela is weathering the storm in his own inimitable manner: non-confrontational, focused and, above all, constantly delivering as a government.
Abela is weathering the storm in his own inimitable manner: non-confrontational, focused and, constantly delivering.
He was not afraid to take tough decisions. Including the inevitable cleaning of the stables, which is still a work in progress. To his credit, his tough decisions made a mark on our society and his new methodology of implementing change is a breath of fresh air for the nation, as evidenced by all the monthly surveys undertaken in these last two years by all the survey providers, irrespective of their political allegiance.
The pattern which evolved from these surveys in these last two years underline two major factors.
The first factor is that the huge majority backing the Labour Party which was unheard of prior to the general elections of 2013 is not the exclusive property of one Labour leader and his machinations in the legendary fourth floor of the Party headquarters. It is indeed the success story of the Labour Party as a whole which keeps the country’s citizens at the foremost of all actions and initiatives.
The second factor, which can be divided into two, is the fact that Prime Minister Abela has proved to be unassailable for the opposition. After two years with Abela at the helm, the Nationalist Party is still in implosive mode. They have yet to make resonance with the electorate who still view them as political lepers, not worthy of their trust and their vote. Which created a unique scenario wherein Robert Abela presides over a political party, the Labour Party, which, in itself, is the ethos of our government whilst simultaneously airing the needs of an opposition within its own government, due to the brazen dereliction of duty by the political party in real opposition which should be doing this job in the first place.
Robert Abela will go on this year to lead Labour in its third electoral victory in the coming general election. The result, ceterus paribus, will not be a photo-finish. After Robert Abela’s victory at the polls, where he will be choosing his own cabinet from his own team of candidates, I will be bold enough to state that that will be the time when we will discover the real Robert Abela: unshackled from the past and surrounded by his choice of public servants. No more hand-me-downs. With an electoral manifesto which he himself would have presided on. With a structure that he oversaw from start to finish. They will be a very interesting five years under Abela’s helm.
I look forward to the coming five years of Labour government led by Robert Abela. I look forward to the continuation of socialist policies and communal progress for the betterment of society as a whole. And I look forward to the changes still needed within our society under Abela’s helm.
What needs to be done at this point by the electorate in the coming general election is to choose wisely. To choose wisely the persons who will be elected to represent us and from which Robert Abela will be choosing his crop of team leaders in the onerous work of governing our nation.