The civil court judgment declaring the hospitals privatisation deal fraudulent is being blamed for the Labour Party’s popularity decline in the latest opinion poll held by Malta Today. That may or may not be the case, but the writing on the wall features more than just Vitals Global Healthcare and Steward Health Care Malta.

The poll puts the gap between the Labour and Nationalist parties at ‘just’ 8,500 votes. By normal Maltese electoral standards, such a difference would be considered huge. However, given the results of the last three general elections, the gap is narrow.

The survey was conducted just days after the damning judgment, which confirmed what many had been suspecting for years - that the hospitals deal was one of the biggest corrupt cases in recent history.

A week is a long time in politics and one will have to look at other surveys to see if the political sentiment is changing after more than 10 years of absolute Labour domination. 

Still, it would be a grave mistake for Labour to ignore these figures. If anything, the survey findings should be considered a token, a signal, of the growing disgruntlement among Labourites, including prominent ones, who are finally commenting in public. Former president Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca,  former minister Evarist Bartolo, former PL councillor Desmond Zammit Marmarà, and Labour mayor Conrad Borg Manchè are among those calling on their party to return to its roots.

Zammit Marmarà even went as far as writing just a few days ago: “As in the years immediately preceding 1987, many genuine Labourites today are asking the question whether only a Labour defeat at the polls will restore the Labour Party to what it once was: the shield of Maltese workers, the defender of the ordinary citizen.”

Abela, who, admittedly, was handed a poisoned chalice when he took over from Joseph Muscat in the midst of a self-inflicted political crisis, is now walking a tightrope.

The high-rise buildings to which the cable is attached at both ends are crumbling and he will not achieve anything by simply not looking down.

It is now an urgent matter for him to shed any form of arrogance and pride and face reality both within and beyond his party.

Abela needs to understand that many voters are getting sick and tired when they see every piece of Malta sold to the highest bidder. He needs to clip the wings of those who feel all too powerful because of their close associations with the ruling party. The many talented people in Malta cannot continue being elbowed out to make way for the party faithful.

Abela should at least separate the wheat from the chaff. More importantly, he must at all times put the national good before protecting Muscat and his associates who plundered the country, unperturbed by the damage they were causing to the same party that gave them so much power.

Abela has a golden opportunity to start mending his ways by taking resolute action to recoup the millions of euros paid to the hospitals concessionaires who failed to deliver what was promised. There are many lessons that Abela, and every politician, should learn from the Vitals/Steward debacle. Instead, what should have been a show of national force by the two sides of parliament last Thursday ended up in a shouting match.

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