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MALTATODAY 4 April 2021

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8 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 4 APRIL 2021 THE past weeks have been dominated by high-level ar- rests, most notably that of Jo- seph Muscat's former chief of staff Keith Schembri, and rev- elations linking Macbridge, a secret company identified as a client of Konrad Mizzi's and Keith Schembri's secret Pana- ma companies, to the chief ne- gotiator in an energy deal with Shanghai Electric. But Robert Abela has been reticent when faced with ques- tions on his predecessor's lega- cy. His standard reply was that both Muscat and Schembri are no longer part of his gov- ernment, while repeating the mantra that the institutions are working, as proven by arrests and police investigations. The question facing Abela is how far can he play a bal- ancing act between appeasing hardcore supporters who still revere Muscat, and his com- mitment to let investigations proceed, without showing fear and favour to some of his past colleagues. After all... Abela as- sisted Muscat at Cabinet level. 'Disassociate yourself from Muscat' Labour stalwart Desmond Zammit Marmara, a former minority leader on the Balzan local council and former execu- tive secretary of Labour think- tank Ideat (2013-16) does not mince his words, calling on Ab- ela to "dissociate himself, the Labour government, and the Labour Party from what hap- pened under his predecessor". Zammit Marmara gives a scathing assessment of Mus- cat's legacy. "Today, all objec- tive people realize that while the former government was highly successful in the eco- nomic sphere, and simultane- ously introduced a multitude of social measures, it failed miser- ably in good governance and the fight against corruption." He praises the present Labour government led by Robert Ab- ela for its "great commitment towards eradicating corrup- tion and ensuring that justice is served, irrespective of who is involved". Moreover, the per- formance of the Prime Minister himself has been encouraging, "with several initiatives which have softened the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic". All this contributed to Abela "retaining the confidence of the majority of the population". But Zammit Marmara warns that the prevailing uncertain- ty related to the latest turn of events, risks "destabilising the country". "The Maltese people need to know what was the extent of political involvement in the assassination of Daphne Caru- ana Galizia, in other crimes re- lated to corruption, and in the attempted HSBC heist. Who were all the persons involved?" He also warns that Robert Ab- ela will remain with this mill- stone around his neck until the police come up with conclusive evidence. "His only way out of the political impasse is to com- pletely dissociate himself, the Labour government, and the Labour Party from what hap- pened under his predecessor. He must have the courage to overrule the Labour hardcore supporters who still find it hard to criticise what happened un- der Dr Joseph Muscat. The fu- ture of Malta, including that of the Labour Party, is at stake." Does Abela need a new man- date? Since Abela has effectively in- herited the electoral mandate given to Labour when led by Muscat in 2017 at a time when the electorate only had a vague idea about the offshore links which now have cast a dark shadow on the deals involv- ing Schembri and Mizzi, one lingering question is whether Abela needs a new mandate to break the impasse and affirm his leadership. But Zammit Marmara insists that the next general election should be held when it is due and not before. "We now have a new government which is not responsible for what happened under the watch of Dr Joseph Muscat." George Vital Zammit – a lec- turer of politics at the Depart- ment of Public Policy –concurs. With the legislature moving in- to its final year, calling a snap election would not only be ill- timed but "highly irresponsible given that the country is still reeling from a pandemic." Moreover, according to Zam- mit, the government is du- ty-bound to provide direction in a watershed moment of Malta's history, which requires the "restoration of integrity of a number of our institutions, injecting confidence to rebuild the economy, and mitigating the effects of the pandemic." Going for a snap election with "the mess created by the Mus- cat administration still unfold- ing" would be a sign of "shirk- ing away or absconding". And cutting short another legisla- ture would signify that for the third time in three decades, Labour was unable to termi- nate its mandate in a "normal time-frame". Instead Zammit expects Abela to show leadership in difficult times. "The way Abela will steer the country before the election will very much determine the legacy he is able to build as a Prime Minister." While noting that Abela has shown "credi- bility" in sacking Konrad Miz- zi and distancing himself from Muscat's old guard, keeping Johann Buttigieg as head of Robert Abela's reckoning with Muscat's legacy Should Robert Abela disassociate himself from Joseph Muscat and go for a snap election to boost his authority? Desmond Zammit Marmara, George Vital Zammit and Godfrey Baldacchino talk to James Debono on Robert Abela's way out of the current impasse "The Maltese people need to know what was the extent of political involvement in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, in other crimes related to corruption, and in the attempted HSBC heist. Who were all the persons involved?" Desmond Zammit Marmara

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