Strange as it is, this was the editorial heading chosen on January 11, 2009. That editorial commended then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi for breaking up with tradition and rather than choosing a party loyal to be president of Malta, he nominated George Abela, a member of the Malta Labour Party.

Ironically enough, 11 years later to the dot, registered members of the Labour Party rightly chose Robert Abela – George Abela’s son – as the new leader of the party and, consequently, the new prime minister.

That result did justice not only to his father but also to the late Lino Spiteri. George Abela and Lino Spiteri were not only best friends; they were like brothers, both of them having participated in distinct leadership contests but, unfortunately, ended up being unsuccessful.

I sometimes wonder and ask what the Labour Party would have been like if Spiteri was chosen instead of Alfred Sant and what the Labour Party would have been like if George Abela had been chosen instead of Joseph Muscat?

Without diminishing any of the valid contributions given by those selected, most probably, under Spiteri, there would have been a better projection of the EU – a defunct issue, but in respect of which, by hindsight, the Nationalist Party was right. In terms of George Abela, had he been chosen, I am more than certain that the recent revelations about wrongdoings within the office of the prime minister would not have occurred in the first place under his watch.

What lies ahead is a tough job for Robert Abela

Without inhibitions, I too made Robert Abela my choice last Saturday, when exercising my demo-cratic right as a registered member of the party. Similar to his father as well as to Gonzi, Robert will bring back the much-needed integrity into Maltese politics.

He will surely lead by example as he has done thus far both in his public as well as private life.

Apart from the much-needed integrity and honesty, while being in public life, I feel the current circumstances call for a leader with a legal background.

As a member of the local accountancy profession, substance over form will always prevail. For members of the legal profession, it is the other way round. That debate will remain ongoing.

However, beyond that technical or academic debate, the current circumstances do call for a leader with all the necessary legal, rather than medical, competences. The need to upgrade our institutions calls for a person like Robert Abela who will ensure that every verse and comma that needs to be arranged in our legal structures will be carried out swiftly and with precision so as to deliver what needs to be delivered to win once again the trust of our foreign partners, especially those within the European Union.

What lies ahead is a tough job for Robert, but I am more than certain that his choice of cabinet members (there are plenty of valid people to choose from) will help him fulfil the job until the run-up to the next general election.

As he intensely demonstrated throughout the leadership campaign, he has to continue to exercise humility, an important ingredient which had contributed heavily to his ability in swinging around the much-needed Labour members’ votes to obtain the result achieved.

That humility will also be necessary in his dealings with the Opposition as he steers this country to better governance and prosperity.

Speaking of prosperity, Robert Abela cannot rest on the laurels of the recent economic success Malta has seen during the past six years but has to keep discovering new ways of generating wealth in our economy.

At the same time, as he has pledged several times, he will need to ensure that the wealth generated will be drilled down to those most vulnerable within our society.

That would surely do justice to all his predecessors as the Labour Party looks forward to celebrate its first centenary this year.

Ivan Grixti is a former Labour Party MEP candidate and a lecturer at the Department of Accountancy at the University of Malta.