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MALTATODAY 31 October 2021

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13 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 31 OCTOBER 2021 NEWS the Muscat era. This left Stagno Navarra with no other option but to eat humble pie and apol- ogise. Continuity vs. change But this is not the end of the story, simply because this ep- isode is a reflection of Abela's predicament, beyond Stagno Navarra's public entertainment slots. The key problem for Abe- la is his positioning between the promise of continuity and change. Elected in his party as the 'continuity candidate', Abe- la found himself presiding over a government which by necessi- ty had to preside over an epoch- al change. And in some ways he did de- liver change: first by removing former Commissioner Law- rence Cutajar, then by expelling Konrad Mizzi from the party, and also putting an end to the charade which saw government condoning the removal of flow- ers from the Daphne shrine. This was followed by the ar- raignment of Keith Schembri in a case of corruption in the private sector. Even his elector- al bloc has changed. For while keeping Labour's core vote, Abela also has consolidated his party's appeal among M.O.R. voters who recoil at the ex- tremely partisan use of the par- ty media. In this sense Abela needs to be a Mr Hyde for his own partisans and a benign Dr Jekyll for more independent voters. And in cir- cumstances like this one, he can afford to intervene as the good cop who says the right thing to compensate for the divisive ac- tions of the bad cops. But eventually Abela will have to choose between continui- ty and change. Probably Abela thinks he can only do so after securing his own mandate in the next election. But that is bound to result in more awk- ward situations in the next weeks and more so during the electoral campaign. For while steps were taken to restore a degree of democratic normality, Abela has failed to send a clear message of rupture with the past by giving pub- lic recognition to the Caruana Galizia legacy. And as months pass, it becomes harder to un- derstand why Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri have not been arraigned on cases of gov- ernment corruption. This also explains the quanda- ry faced by Abela with regards to the summoning of Kon- rad Mizzi in front of the PAC. While Abela and Clyde Caru- ana have amply made it clear that they expect Mizzi to face the music and face questions in the committee, Labour's rep- resentatives on the same com- mittee have taken a soft line refusing to vote for a motion condemning Mizzi's repeated no-shows. And if Mizzi does in the end attend, people like Glenn Bed- ingfield – who for years found nothing wrong in Mizzi's off- shore investments – will have to choose whether to defend or question the disgraced former Minister. Crucially, faced with a need to legitimise himself with the party grassroots, Abela still needs propagandists like Stag- no Navarra to target an enemy, which gives them a sense of purpose especially when the of- ficial opposition is hardly per- ceived as a threat. Unfortunately one dark aspect of tribalism is the constant need for an enemy to hate, mock or despise. Ridding the country of tribalism, including that fes- tering on party-owned TV sta- tions, could well be the precon- dition for real political change but that appears a step to far for a PM who needs to mobilise the party's core vote to win an elec- tion by a large margin, possibly bigger than his predecessor's. Still, with polls showing him enjoying such a large and com- fortable lead, does Abela really need the divisive antics which may well alienate M.O.R. vot- ers? "Abela still needs propagandists like Stagno Navarra to target an enemy, which gives them a sense of purpose especially when the official opposition is hardly perceived as a threat. Unfortunately one dark aspect of tribalism is the constant need for an enemy to hate, mock or despise" Abela: PN devised early election ruse PRIME Minister Robert Abela has accused the PN of devising a ruse for an early election in a bid at creating uncertainty and derail the economy during its recovery after COVID. After long weeks of election talk for the end of this year, Abela officially ruled out a 2021 election on Monday. Abela did hint at a dilemma over whether to call the elec- tion for this year but never confirmed whether this was on the table. "I always spoke of the national interest. When it came to taking a decision, it was clear to me that the gov- ernment should implement the budget. […] We are al- so giving an opportunity to everyone to enjoy the Christ- mas period and the business to turn profit." In an interview on One Radio on Saturday morning, Abela spoke of the worrying rise in fuel and energy prices, con- sidering that the world is still recovering from the pandem- ic. "During the pandemic, we decided to not raise the en- ergy prices and now we have amongst the lowest prices in Europe. The burden should fall on the government's shoulder and not on the citi- zen," Abela said. He said he was satisfied that the European Council had ac- cepted more than once that the government intervenes in order to keep the energy pric- es down. "Whenever the bills were shifted onto the people, the economy suffered due to the lack of confidence and ab- sence of a feel-good factor." He spoke also of decarbon- isation and climate change, saying that there "was no vaccine for climate change", and that during the COP26 Climate Change Conference, Malta will send a message that it is ready to contribute. He said transport is an area where emissions could be drastical- ly reduced, and said that the €12,000 electric vehicle grant, is an incentive that will help electrify the nation's car fleet.

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