17 Jan 2016 The Logic of Maltese Politics
In today’s Maltatoday survey, figures show that the Labour Party led by Joseph Muscat enjoys a negligible 2% lead over the Nationalist Party led by Simon Busuttil meaning that the Nationalist Party led by Simon Busuttil has made considerable gains at the expense of the Labour Party led by Joseph Muscat.
But then the leader of the Labour Party (that has suffered considerable losses to the Nationalist Party led by Simon Busuttil), enjoys a 9% lead over the leader of the Nationalist Party that has made considerable gains at the expense of the Labour Party.
Basically Simon Busuttil’s Party has made gains but he loses, whilst Joseph Muscat’s party has suffered losses but he wins ! What is the logic in all this? It looks like a riddle, rather.
Logic would tell me that if the Nationalist Party made huge inroads in a short time Simon Busuttil must have a big chunk of the credit and if the Labour Party is in absolute free fall Joseph Muscat has a big chunk of the blame!
So where is the logic in all this ? And since Maltatoday surveys are usually very reliable, the riddle stems not from the method but from the findings.
Faced with this riddle what is the worst thing Joseph Muscat can do at the moment ? – a reshuffle. The new cabinet would immediately start on the wrong foot contaminated by the increasing unpopularity. Moreover the need for a reshuffle is tantamount to an admission of wrong choices and wrong appointments.
Few are realising that this very same absurdity constituted the rise and fall of GonziPN, and that in reality a big discrepancy between a leader’s and his party’s popularity is unrealistic and is none other than a clear indication of an unhealthy situation developing rapidly.
In late 2007 with the election fast approaching, the Nationalist Party realised that Dr Gonzi, then party leader was more popular than the party so a formula was devised which brought about the rise, but also the quick downfall of GonziPN winning the 2008 general election and losing heavily the MEP elections a year later and other subsequent ones – a formula where the leader is almost the be-all and end-all and the party an almost insignificant addenda.
The correct formula is a balance and distribution of power between leader and party, a leader who chooses the right people with whom to surround himself, people who stand close to him on his way up but also offer him the necessary support when the downward pull makes itself heavily felt.
One final point. From logic to arithmetic. The same survey points out that Muscat has lost some six points to Busuttil over the past year, seeing his lead almost halved. However the two did not start on a par, since Busuttil took over the party in a very difficult time, whilst Muscat had just won an election after his party’s twenty five years in Oppostion. Had they started on a par Busuttil would have some five per cent lead.
Simple arithmetic. The numbers are telling. The gradient even more.