Political surveys are a snapshot of the situation on the ground. They are an essential tool for politicians and analysts to measure public opinion and predict potential election outcomes. Surveys are not the be-all and end-all of political parties’ fate, but they certainly give an indication of the pulse of a nation.

The recent surveys carried out by Times of Malta, Malta Today and It-Torċa might have drawn somewhat different results, but they established a clear trend. One year after the general election, thousands of voters have shifted away from the Labour Party, the Nationalists have barely made inroads, while the small parties gained a small percentage. The biggest winner is absenteeism.

Around one in four are now saying they have no intention to vote: in other words, they feel politically orphaned, possibly uninspired by the political class.

It is the norm for ruling parties to take a hit in the first part of the legislature. It is also common that a party in its third term can sometimes do absolutely nothing to retain the same level of support. But the survey trends appear to transcend political inertia.

The spiralling cost of living might – now the public’s greatest concern – might not be the government’s fault. On the contrary, the government has pulled out all the stops to cushion the price of energy to the extent that international institutions are warning that the subsidies are unsustainable.

What is really irking thousands of people is the fact that while they are struggling to make ends meet to keep up with the cost of living, those with connections, those close to power continue to “pig out”, to use MP Rosianne Cutajar’s quote.

Corruption, greed and the misuse of public money have become endemic in the government. The recent damning judgment on the hospitals deal has finally jolted thousands into realising their own tax money was being used to line up the pockets of crooks. A dark cloud hang over dozens of other projects. This has created a sense of disillusionment among an electorate, which according to our survey is increasingly frustrated by excessive construction, the state of the environment and the traffic situation.

The issue is whether the PN can claw back cohorts of voters that have abandoned it since 2008. It is clear that the opposition is still prioritising its grassroots over the aspirations of thousands (especially the young and non-Maltese voters) who are desperate for a party brave enough to take on the cowboys, clamp down on greed, elevate the environment to the top of the agenda, and plan beyond the next five years.

Of course, the PN is happy to see the shrinking gap, but a random look at Malta’s election results of the last 50 years shows it is still trailing heavily. A change of leadership could help the party’s prospects but a new captain alone can hardly keep afloat a ship which has sustained a hole in its hull.

The surveys are showing interesting trends: the young generation is less influenced by familial political allegiances, while many are prepared to switch party or even abstain from voting. It is unlikely that more than a quarter of the electorate will fail to show up at the polling booth in the next election. But a week is a long time in politics.

With a year to go to the European elections and four years to the general election, the political parties need to understand the electorate is changing the rules of the game. Malta might still not be prepared for a Macron – a third party that comes out of the blue to sweep into power at its first shot – but the electorate is fast becoming unforgiving. And this is not a bad thing for democracy.

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