Story blogs

Numbers tell a political story

The invasion of Ukraine served to divert public attention from the general election campaign, which has its own problems, and failed to even attract much public attention.

The very fact that Labor has been ahead in the polls for years has also served to push many former Labor voters into a state of lethargy; many more will declare that they will stay at home. To be frank, they are also uncomfortable seeing their party win with such big numbers.

Today’s MaltaToday poll by Polar shows unequivocally that Labor has a challenge: it needs to get out of the vote…at least, if it wants to keep its super-majority intact, of course.

Unlike other polls, MaltaToday’s surveys since 2002 show both undecided voters and declared non-voters. They do not ignore these figures or hide them, because to understand the elections, one must not ignore the non-voters and the undecided.

A significant portion of new Labor voters in 2013 and 2017 who voted for a Joseph Muscat administration and were promised a dream, even a policy free from corruption and deceit – and believed it, and now feel betrayed by this charade – could be the potential non-voters and undecided. And it shows, because a substantial part of these “non-voters” trust Robert Abela even more than Bernard Grech when asked.

People who had never voted for Labor chose to vote for the Partit Laburista in 2013 after 25 years of PN government. They then considered the PN as a fossilized, conservative, inward-looking, lethargic, parochial and partisan party. Despite the betrayal of corruption scandals and the state’s connection to the assassination of Caruana Galizia, a sense of indolence seems to have been registered among a significant number of these Labor voters, despite the economic successes of the recent past.

It comes as no surprise to me that the survey shows Labor faces a daunting task to get the vote out – the one Robert Abela wants. But not an impossible task altogether.

Labor leader Robert Abela says he has done all he humanly could to address the weaknesses of his predecessors and calibrate the institutions.

But he cannot completely wash away the guilt stains of his predecessor Joseph Muscat.

And that is why Muscat’s decision to campaign openly will backfire and enrage those former Labor voters of 2013 and 2017, who want a Labor party that admits its mistakes and breaks away from Joseph Muscat.

For voters who continue to say they will not vote Labor, they will need meaningful arguments from Robert Abela and his peers to vote Labor again. The presence of Joseph Muscat, apparently seconded by Labor MP Glenn Bedingfield, no doubt for his own electoral gains, surely makes this undertaking more difficult.

The only thing that favors Labor is that the swing to the PN from the PL is insignificant. Bernard Grech’s confidence has not increased and, interestingly, the PN has not changed in numerical value.

War in Europe

We are now approaching the fifth day of the full-scale and unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine. War has returned to Europe. Incredible, and sad.

Every dinner and conversation is rightly centered on Vladimir Putin’s full-scale assault on Ukrainian soil. COVID seems like a long-forgotten saga all of a sudden.

Unfortunately, this invasion brings to mind the realities of ruling demagogues declaring war on their vast armies to inflict chaos and death on countless communities, in an effort to expand their ambitions for global influence.

It is a war that Putin has every intention of using to try to expand Russia’s borders, sharpening his teeth with all his neighbors, under the pretext that he is fending off NATO advances.

The weak reaction of the West to this declaration of war recalls that of 1938, when Adolf Hitler invaded Czechoslovak Sudetenland and annexed Austria.

Europe’s reluctance to cut off its supply of Russian gas to Europe, a factor made difficult by the slow transition to green and renewable energy, or the equally difficult decision to block the use of the SWIFT banking system to Russia, shows how economics and trade trump geopolitical morality.

Ukraine is a nation with limited military capability, but Europe will not fight Russia there. Tough sanctions are the only hope of bringing Russia to the diplomatic table.

And if war is on our minds, it doesn’t change the fact that the upcoming parliamentary elections in Malta also demand our attention, and that the press must tackle the proposals of the parties and politicians who aspire to implement them. We need to break their generous promises and find out how genuine some of these proposals really are.

In the meantime, I hope some form of divine intervention can save Ukraine from the Russian aggressor: Putin is angry with the West and wants to push the limits… we ignore it at our peril and perils.