It doesn’t take a great effort to notice the authoritarian characteristics of the government when the government itself unashamedly and willing practices authoritarianism.
Soon after Robert Abela won the general election earlier this year, he said he would govern in a humble manner, address the concerns of those who are mostly aggrieved by the government, and will dialogue with anyone in order to quell any suspicions about his government. Instead, the first major reform of the government is a direct attack on the free press with a reform that the press doesn’t want and more is to come with plans to re-introduce criminal libel.
The Labour government’s press reform is not its only authoritarian characteristic. Under Robert Abela, the Labour Party has morphed into a far-right and populist political party which pinkwashes its totalitarianism with gay rights. At the Labour Party level, historically, the leader of the party never had such absolute and sweeping control over the party with literally no internal opposition, in contrast to all previous Labour leaders who had their own internal opponents in the party. This situation is earmarked with absolutely no discussion in the party and also no initiative taken by politicians and activists since Robert Abela is micro-managing every single aspect of the Labour Party and the government with nothing allowed to happen unless it is approved by his office. This stifling situation in the Labour Party is leading to incredible stagnation in both political activity and internal debates.
On a government level, the Labour Party has captured all state institutions and uses these same institutions to enrich itself and its allies and increasing its hegemony while simultaneously using them against its own opponents. For example, the government will use its own departments and entities to fund Labour propaganda outlets while simultaneously crunching the free press with totalitarian laws. The multi-pronged approach of the Labour Party to take absolute control over the free press in Malta can not be more clear.
The Labur Party is also funded and influenced by several local elites such as Joseph Portelli and Michael Żammit Tabona – this is basically how the rent-seeking regime works which I write about it frequently. The Labour Party doesn’t have a genuine and objectively-made economic policy, let alone a plan, but it operates the economy on the principle of appeasing special interests while making sure that the masses don’t go below subsistence levels. This is a typical economic setup in fascist dictatorships. Local elites who sustain the party-in-government are kept happy with public projects and government contracts while the masses are kept off absolute poverty while subsidising their electricity bill. A progressive policy would have helped people with subsidies while ensuring economic growth with a fair and equitable distribution of public resources, something which the Labour Party can never understand under these circumstances. So what about our economic problems? Do they even exist at all according to Labour? According to the Prime Minister, our only economic problems stem from the economic results of the EU’s sanctions regime against Russia, a trope which the Prime Minister has parroted frequently in the Maltese language on the Party’s propaganda station ONE. For a far-right party in government, it’s typical to blame your country’s economic problems exclusively on the international rules-based order.
Robert Abela is going to great lengths to denigrate his critics with fascist tropes, mainly that his critics are all members of the Nationalist Party and therefore their criticism is not legitimate. The Prime Minister is making it very clear in his early months in office that he will ignore any kind of criticism made of the government’s work. In a situation where Labour has complete control of most state institutions and the Prime Minister is openly telling you that he will not tolerate any criticism, Labour is also fading the democratic structure of the Maltese state with the result of creating a dictatorial system of state patronage where the political opposition is also suppressed economically.
The Labour Party didn’t wake up one day and decided to turn far-right. Labour’s slippery slope into far-right politics began with the collapse of the rule of law under Joseph Muscat which resulted in the Labour Party having excess power over the country, a power which so far has been abused to a great extent.