Well, that was quick.
We’ve reached the end of what was a short, underwhelming, and relatively uneventful election campaign, which passed by quicker than most of the political ads which we’ve gotten used to seeing on YouTube.
To say that we were expecting this election to come around is a given. It’s been exactly 5 years since the last general election was held (a year earlier than when it was meant to take place, but alas) in 2017, so the government’s term was slowly coming to a close as its 5-year mandate, as set by the Constitution of Malta, was set to expire.
However, one can’t help but compare the hype there was towards the end of 2021, as speculation mounted over a snap election being called for that November, to the hype (or lack thereof) approaching the end of this election campaign, which has left many feeling an overall sense of disappointing boredom that has throughout the campaign.
So, where do the Labour and Nationalist parties stand amidst all this?
From the minute the election was called for the 26th of March, Robert Abela kickstarted a 34-day campaign that he and the Labour Party have frequently framed as being a choice between the future and the past. Rather than publishing its electoral manifesto early on, Labour adopted an approach whereby it launched its electoral manifesto’s proposals in a periodical manner, before finally announcing the full list of electoral promises in the final fortnight of the election campaign.
This stood in contrast to the Nationalist Party, which published its manifesto in the early days of the election campaign. One of the few things which both parties had in common through their approach was that they put up promotional posters and banners right after the election was called, and did so with razor-sharp speed.
Whilst Labour strongly espoused its mantra in relation to this election being a ‘choice between the past and the future’, the Nationalist Party placed its emphasis on unveiling a 10-year socio-economic vision for Malta.
This particularly caught the eye of various political commentators, as the PN shifted its electoral focus onto the substance and content of its manifesto proposals, as opposed to repeating its 2017 strategy which was solely focused on combatting and exposing corruption being committed by the Labour government.
Instead, the PN directed its criticism towards Abela’s leadership during the last 2 years and seemed to neglect the legacy of Joseph Muscat, and the events involving Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, amongst others.
Particularly, the PN focused a great deal on the claims surrounding the property dealings which have emerged, namely consisting of the Christian Borg debacle, the controversy related to Abela’s Żejtun villa, and developing news stories concerning the work which Abela has done for the Planning Authority (PA) and the approval which developer Joseph Portelli received for a construction project in Sannat, Gozo.
In a tit-for-tat move, Labour opted to attack Grech in relation to claims surrounding his Mosta property, and the story regarding unpaid taxes which have haunted his leadership since the moment it started in late 2020.
Moreover, the PN incessantly hammered Labour for having dragged its feet with having launched its electoral manifesto in the middle/latter stages of the election campaign, whilst Labour focused increasingly on the PN having about 5 different versions of its own manifesto, and the lack of published costings, which were only released in the last week of the election campaign – these costings totalled to €6 billion.
An election campaign, which rather than being a battle of ideas and ideologies, was a confrontation between proposals being put forward by Labour and the PN. Labour brought out its financial incentives aimed at supporting first time buyers, students, and couples seeking to make use of IVF healthcare services, amongst others. What perhaps stood out more than others, was the proposal which would see €700 million being spent on creating green and open spaces across Malta and Gozo.
Across the political aisle, the PN pledged to invest €1 billion in order to create 10 new economic sectors, promised that it would reform the public transport system by means of the construction of a trackless tram, and further financial incentives aimed towards supporting students and their families, amongst other proposals.
Whilst many were quick to exclaim that the abundance of socio-economic measures is what dominated the majority of the manifesto proposals that both major parties have presented, the arguments in favour of implementing such measures are validated when considering the ongoing ramifications brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the global disruption in supply chains and rising inflation and cost of living levels which has been felt across the entire world.
Both parties also put their respective visions for Malta at the forefront of their arguments as they outlined their campaigns, whilst this election undoubtedly undertook a more presidential style, with the choice between Abela and Grech being made extremely clear by the parties which they lead, and with both leaders not holding back on confronting each other openly, and directly.
Is it now precisely that choice which is in the hands of the electorate, and which will determine Malta’s future, the course which the country will take over the next 5 years, and much more.
Written by: Jacob Callus
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