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So, here we are, standing at the gates of totalitarianism as they swing wide open.

The Labour Party’s public enemy number one was always the free press. At the very least, the animosity stretches all the way back to that fateful day they burned down the Times. They’ve been trying to cut down that particular pillar of democracy since then. By 2013, they had already managed to worm their way into at least two major media houses, one of which is the same one they tried to burn down decades ago. In 2017, they escalated their war against a lone journalist, orchestrating a dehumanisation campaign that led to her murder. To this day, they insult Daphne Caruana Galizia’s legacy by refusing to implement the recommendations of the public inquiry.

Satisfied with the chilling effect their intolerance towards the press has had on the rest of us, they moved on to the second pillar: the judiciary. I trust we are all up to speed on the government’s anti-democratic crusade against the judiciary – if you aren’t, then you should read this first. The summary version is that they are doing whatever they can to derail the criminal proceedings against disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and the rest of the individuals involved in the rescinded hospitals concession. They are desperate enough to try and delegitimise the judiciary itself, blissfully unaware of their own lack of legitimacy.

Now, retreating under fire, they have moved to axe another pillar – Parliament.

As of yesterday, the House of Representatives was adjourned to 10 June, two days after the MEP and local council elections. For almost a whole month, one of the most important institutions of the country is going to be shut down, simply because the government said so. The Opposition had already resisted a previous attempt by the government to adjourn Parliament by 8 May, a full month before the elections. After it was allegedly agreed that the House will adjourn on 22 May, the adjournment was instead abruptly announced during Wednesday’s plenary.

Rather than facing the Opposition in Parliament during the worst rule of law crisis we’ve had since Daphne’s murder, the government, aided and abetted by Speaker of the House Anġlu Farrugia, shut down the forum in which our representatives are supposed to voice our concerns. It is already bad enough that the House of Representatives rises for summer recess for a whole three months like a gaggle of schoolkids who just finished their exams. The last thing we need is a four-week gagging order in a crucial political forum where the government must answer for its decisions.

It is a decision that is absolutely unjustifiable. It is an admission of weakness from the government’s top brass – we are unable to meet our political adversaries out in the open field, and so, we will choose when and how to engage, even if it means abdicating our sworn duty as MPs to represent our constituents in the office they elected us to hold. That is the message that is being sent. The rabid campaigning going on in the background is merely panicked crisis management, a circus of vapid slogans and other assorted bits of propaganda that means nothing.

And where is prime minister Robert Abela during all of this? Well, it seems he’s officially given up on making it look like he’s the one who’s in the driver’s seat. Muscat’s ONE interview, the latest in a series of public tantrums, is the clearest sign yet that Abela is so short on ideas that he is left with no choice but to give in to his master’s wishes.

The mainstream press correctly picked up on the significance that this was Muscat’s first interview on Labour Party media in years: it is significant because the Labour Party is, like any other cult of personality, dependent on reinforcing the leader’s position. Ever since Muscat began publicly rattling his sabre again, Abela was cautious at first, making it a point to sidestep Muscat’s poisonous legacy and promising the public that he would allow the institutions to investigate and take action whenever necessary.

As soon as those institutions starting indicating just how much action was going to be necessary, Abela defended Muscat to the hilt, amplifying his phony establishment crusade by a hundredfold and debasing the office of the prime minister by doing so. If it was anyone else speaking about the judiciary in the way Abela did, they’d be hauled to court and charged with reviling or threatening a judge.

Article 93 of the Criminal Code of the laws of Malta.

Now, as the sewage threatens to burst forth from the drains like a bad day at the Thames, Abela seems intent on muzzling any avenue which the government cannot control. The independent media, the judiciary, and Parliament have been sent to hell in the same handbasket. In the meantime, after publicly falling out with former deputy prime minister Chris Fearne, Abela threw his desperate predecessor a lifeline.

It started with Abela’s lies about not having access to the Vitals inquiry report after it was published. Then, judge Giovanni Grixti’s decision to give Muscat a redacted copy of the Vitals inquiry and the attorney general’s explicit refusal to appeal Grixti’s decision and publish the inquiry report herself. All this time, Abela kept publicly claiming that he wanted the report published, as if he couldn’t do anything about it except for sit on his laurels and wait like the rest of us are.

And now, the grand finale: Muscat and his handbag being given the floor on the party’s key media outlet to continue their insidious war against the judiciary. Yesterday’s interview proved that Abela was never capable of being a leader, nor will he ever be. Faced with the biggest crucible of all – loyalty to his corrupt master or loyalty to the oath of his office – he chose the former, destroying the latter in the process. Yesterday’s interview is the moment in which Abela threw in the towel, seemingly content to swim along in the veritable river of muck that is coming out of Mile End’s every hole.

Muscat is only able to precondition the narrative about the inquiry because the state conspired to give him access to information we are all itching to hear, midway through an election campaign and less than two weeks before he is set to walk in court to face charges that could land him and his key associates 18 years in prison. Whatever he says about it is irrelevant until we actually see what it contains. He can downplay the severity of the charges he is facing all he wants – in this game, the only thing that matters is hard evidence, not the bluster of a proven liar.

Muscat is in charge of the Labour Party because Abela was too spineless to resist. All along, Abela’s stint as a prime minister has been nothing but a convenient fire alarm for Muscat to pull whenever the kitchen gets too hot.

Perhaps the prime minister ought to consider purchasing a comfy headrest.

The long, long drive off a cliff that the Labour government is currently engaged in will take a while to eventually crash-land at the bottom of the ravine.

We wouldn’t want our passenger seat princeling to get uncomfortable in the meantime now, would we?

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