Once Robert Abela had taken over the Labour Party, we knew that the progressive wave of legislation that Labour had started in 2013 was at an end. Joseph Muscat was more popular than the Labour Party and this afforded him to take positions that the conservative and working-class core of the Labour Party would have disagreed with. Joseph Muscat also had wide support from students, the middle class and the gay lobby and could successfully yet gradually enact a succeeding number of progressive reforms on civil liberties even when opposed by many of his cabinet ministers.
Robert Abela lacks the popularity of Joseph Muscat, lacks any “intelligentsia” in his camp except for corrupt academics, and is losing support from every quarter of society except for the Labour core. Labour’s reform of Malta’s Draconian and dangerous abortion legislation has come as a great surprise to Robert Abela given that originally, his plan was not to ruffle feathers by engaging in controversial issues such as abortion. Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party has successfully presented itself as the bad guy in the story as they aligned their position with the lunatic fringe of society such as Miriam Sciberras.
There are very good reasons why the Nationalist Party leadership would take such a predictable stance. The majority of PN’s supporters are the traditional Catholic conservatives of society, so with its misguided position, PN is simply pandering to its crowd. Now, Labour has finished at the end of the line which could push this conservative crowd to discontent and the rage on what should have been obvious human rights is by now, already ebbing. Ask yourself this, how many people who voted “No” in the divorce referendum would today vote “yes” today if given a chance? How many of them have passed away and how many of them have taken a divorce themselves? This is the turning point where officially and formally the Labour Party begins to change its role from the harbinger of civil liberties to the fascist that crushes them.
Starting from Labour’s botched press reform in its first year of office, the succeeding years will give us more authoritarian laws and behaviour from a government which is governing for the sake of its own survival. Under these conditions, it will be difficult if not impossible to divide the opposition to the government by issues of civil liberties any longer. No one is going to vote Labour for gay rights anymore, and the number of people who will vote for the PN with the main reason to vote for an anti-abortion party is fizzling away. Those who will never compromise will end up in the parties run by the lunatic fringe and will become irrelevant.
The conditions for an organised and national coalition against the government haven’t been riper since Labour took office in 2013 and the conditions for this will only get better over time.