When you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.

As the hospitals scandal starts being unleashed, the “provocation” that Robert Abela speaks about is his own doing. Rather than allow justice to take its course and ensure the institutions truly work, he has arrogated to himself a role he does not have.

Conveniently forgetting he is the country’s prime minister, and a lawyer, to boot, Abela tells his gullible audience there is nothing wrong with publicly accusing a magistrate of “political terrorism”, because that falls within his “checks and balances” role.

No, prime minister, it does not. Checks and balances are built into the structure of government. They do not require invective. The functioning of justice in a democracy is clearly defined.

Abela knows this. But he also knows many of his party’s supporters do not. When he shifted Labour’s canons onto the magistrate, he unleashed days of rhetoric that is worryingly descending into our version of Trumpism.

Unwilling to accept an election result that unseated him, Donald Trump urged supporters to descend on the capital for a “big protest”: “be there, be wild”.

Years later, Trump is dominating the news headlines as he claims that the criminal charges meted out against him, with months ticking to the November election, are a conspiracy to harm his electoral chances. Sounds familiar?

Abela might be more polished than Trump, but that has not stopped Malta’s prime minister from claiming the magisterial inquiry into the hospitals debacle was deliberately delayed to coincide with the European elections.

He went one step further: he implied that the ‘court of the people’ – that is, the electoral result – is what matters, not what an inquiry concluded about potential crimes committed.

A worrying outcome of Abela’s inflamed rhetoric is the risk of hot heads as the country approaches the June 8 poll

Of course, the sovereign electorate has the right in a democracy to choose the people they would like to govern their country. However, that same majority can never expect to decide who should be prosecuted and who should be shielded. That is not democracy, it is mob rule.

Abela says the “establishment” is out to harm his government, though he stops short of naming names.

It is a tactic that his predecessor, Joseph Muscat, borrowed from Trump. Muscat spent his entire political career pitching Labour as the underdog battling a cruel and vicious “establishment” that lurked in the shadows.

That might have worked in Labour’s early years, but it is questionable how well that line will resonate with middle-of-the-road voters in 2024.

Labour has been in power for 11 years. It has hijacked almost every national authority and institution. Its insiders have milked the public teat for all it is worth. And yet Abela would have people believe it is a secretive “establishment”, not the apparatus he and Labour have built, that controls things.

A much more likely, and frankly worrying outcome of Abela’s inflamed rhetoric is the risk of hot heads as the country approaches the June 8 poll.

As Trump found out on that notorious January 6, it is much easier to fan flames than it is to douse them. Will Abela be in full control if the situation were to get out of hand?

In its first years, the Abela-led government introduced a number of significant rule of law reforms that, among other things, led to a more independent judiciary.

Now Abela is undermining all that, by pitting the people against the judiciary, and their vote against the decisions of prosecutors, magistrates and judges.

If we win on June 8, he is telling them, then the law be damned.

All this, and we still haven’t had a single criminal charge filed against anyone allegedly involved in this multimillion euro mess. Where will it all end?

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