Joseph Muscat does not have a good enough reason to call an election nine months to a year before it is due. The reason he gave – that he wants to protect Malta’s economic stability – does not hold water. Rather, the opposite is true: he himself is the cause of instability, which will only grow if he remains in charge.

The instability is clear in the warnings sounded by financial services practitioners over the potential loss of reputation and business if law enforcement and regulatory bodies are not seen to be effective in the wake of allegations of financial crime. The situation is unlikely to stabilise if Labour is re-elected in a few weeks’ time because the same Prime Minister will preside over the same weakened institutions, and he shows no sign of wanting to strengthen them. Contrast this with Simon Busuttil’s pledge to replace the disgraced Police Commissioner and have that and other sensitive appointments to constitutional bodies subject to a two-thirds majority in Parliament.  

Then there is the Finance Minister’s carefully constructed five-year plan of growth and fiscal consolidation. It all seemed to be going so well. Muscat now risks derailing that plan with premature electoral pledges in a naked attempt to seduce voters, by sending them cheques in the post and doing up all the roads, which people have been complaining about for years on end. This has prompted warnings about sustainability from constituted bodies. So much for stability.

On the political front, what could be more unstable than having a re-elected Prime Minister facing the possibility of a criminal investigation over the report his wife owns a company in Panama? Muscat’s position has become all the more untenable after a magistrate last week confirmed that his closest aide, Keith Schembri, will undergo a criminal inquest over allegations of kickbacks from the sale of passports. This is not the stuff that stability is made of.

It is clear that the national interest has not been served by calling an early election – instead of resigning – and that the Prime Minister has used his prerogative for one sole purpose: to try and secure his political survival by catching the country out. This is a cynical, manipulative abuse of democracy’s prime instrument, the ballot box.

The bedrock of democracy is an informed electorate. But while Muscat may be feeling ‘serene’ about all that is happening, voters are confused. Serious gaps exist in their knowledge of his and his collaborators’ dealings. Yet, they have been called to blindly pass judgement on him. 

What is in the multi-million-euro contracts which the government has refused so steadfastly to reveal? Why did the Prime Minister not sack Schembri and Konrad Mizzi (remember him?) when it was first revealed they owned Panama companies? Why is Muscat still so staunchly defending his chief of staff? Why did the police not launch an investigation when the kickback suspicions first surfaced a year ago? Does Michelle Muscat really own Egrant? Why has the Prime Minister refused to testify straight away before the committee of MEPs investigating the Panama Papers? And why on earth has he risked damaging Malta’s reputation by calling a disruptive election in the middle of this country’s EU presidency, held with such pride and fanfare?

The true reason for Muscat’s sudden change of heart about calling an election in March 2018 remains unknown. Stability it is not. All the unanswered questions that voters have means the supreme exercise of the people’s will on June 3 is intended to be no more than a charade, Muscat playing political games with the country’s future.

Unless, that is, the very existence of these questions prompts a vote of no-confidence in a government run with such scant respect for the other fundamentals of democracy – transparency, checks and balances and the rule of law. Instead of a desecration of democracy, this election would then turn out to be a celebration of it.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.