Did Joseph Muscat initiate the spectacular fall from grace that has just been experienced by his party and government? Or was he sucked into it?
It really does not matter what the answer is: the man who could once not put a foot wrong made his choices over the years and they have allowed his government and country to become associated with corrupt practices and the murder of a journalist.
Muscat had the power to stop this descent early on. He didn’t. He and those around him must have thought they were invincible. As Malta has found out for itself over the last two or three weeks, the likes of which have never been witnessed in its history, pride comes before the fall.
As democracy demands, the Prime Minister is now paying a heavy price for his fundamental, repeated and wilful misjudgement: that of protecting those close to him from political responsibility for their misdeeds.
In so doing, he has abused the voters’ trust, rendering his electoral mandate null and void. He will be vacating a seat lent to him by the people who had confidence in him, many of whom are now feeling utterly betrayed.
But political responsibility also demands that he should not wait a moment longer to step down. And there are plenty of other reasons why it is imperative he makes his departure now and not in the New Year. First, he will continue standing in the way of justice being done for Daphne Caruana Galizia, and being seen to be done.
There are clear signs Keith Schembri has been let off the hook by the police in connection with her murder. That does not mean Muscat’s former chief of staff is now above suspicion. There is evidence he passed on messages to Yorgen Fenech and that he has heinously tried to frame another member of Cabinet with involvement in the murder. He denies those allegations.
This has gone well beyond a resigning matter. Given Muscat’s closeness to Schembri – they are bosom buddies who rebuilt Labour and ran the government together – Muscat should not be touching the investigation with a barge pole from here to Castille. What does he know about Schembri?
Will he use his remaining days in office to continue protecting him? These are questions for the police to urgently look into and investigate.
Are the police seriously investigating Schembri over the claims he has communicated with Fenech, tried to obstruct justice and possibly frame Minister Chris Cardona? Are the police themselves obstructing justice?
Muscat has neither the political nor moral authority to bring order
Malta’s reputation is in shreds.
Clinging on will only delay the start of what must become an intense effort to restore its name internationally. The EU has its eyes on Malta.
Muscat and his ministers will enter any meetings, whether with local or foreign officials, shorn of credibility and under a cloud of shame.
Muscat has neither the political nor moral authority to bring order. His presence is now toxic and likely to fuel internal feuds and flare-ups as the leadership race gets closer. The Cabinet is in revolt and near breaking point.
No government can function like this. What is needed is a calming of the waters and a steadying of the ship of State.
That can only happen if Muscat is immediately replaced by the deputy Prime Minister – now, not in January. If Muscat does not do it, his MPs must pick up the courage to force him out.