Prime Minister Robert Abela has finally revealed that Malta will go to the polls on Saturday 26 March, in just over a month’s time.
The atmosphere in Floriana made it immediately clear that the activity was more than the standard Sunday rallies/" 1014 target="_blank">political rally, with a bumper attendance brandishing Robert Abela placards, and with a lengthy video feature about the government’s biggest achievements serving as the pre-cursor for Abela’s speech.
With a graphic of the Maltese flag waving transposed onto the screen behind him, Abela emerged to raptorous applause from those present.
Throughout his speech, he detailed the challenges which his government faced, particularly with regards to the Covid-19 pandemic, which he said shook the globe and caused the biggest worldwide crisis since World War Two.
He said that the country had emerged due to its concrete and consistent leadership, which took every decision in accordance with the interest of the people.
He continued that Malta had, after the pandemic, managed to keep the economy going and even have unemployment levels at record lows. He said that the government had retained energy prices as they were while they skyrocket elsewhere in Europe.
“This is just the start: the foundations which will give us what we need to build a new prosperity. One built on new priorities which this country has. And you know when we speak about new priorities, we show it with facts – as we showed right up until this week when we took an important decision on Zonqor [land which was handed back to the government from the American Univeristy of Malta],” Abela said.
Abela said that he dreamed of improving the quality of life of the Maltese people, and that the country’s economic plan was based on this. That plan, he said, is made up of five pillars: Providing a better environment for hard work, having an infrastructure which is the catalyst for investment, providing education and training so everyone has the ability to reach their aspirations and beyond, having an environment which becomes the core of our lives where instead of being sacrificed for development and progress it becames the source of progress itself, and having a just and serious country where everyone is equal in the eyes of the law.
“This is the Malta we want for our children. I believe in it both as a father and as a Maltese citizen,” he said.
He said that the choice before the people was a crucial decision for people.
“It is a choice on whether to want to move forward or whether you want to risk everything we have achieved. A choice between the past and the future… we are the future,” he said, before adding that the PL is the “movement of reforms” and criticising the PN for being divided into a hundred pieces over every major reform.
Abela said that he wanted to see a Malta which is more beautiful and which provides a better quality of life and opportunities for everyone.
The Prime Minister placed special emphasis on the environment, saying that in the coming years he wants every village and city to have a stronger green lung and for village centres to be a source of beauty and pride for residents. He also said that the emphasis will shift from providing work for everyone, to providing a better income for everyone.
Turning to the election date, Abela said that he had always emphasised that the general election will happen when it is in the national interest.
“Don’t you agree with me that the national interest in January 2020 was to bring political stability?,” he rhetorically asked the party faithful.
“I believe we managed. Don’t you agree that when the first Covid-19 case emerged and from then onwards, the priority was to save lives, jobs and the economy? That was the national interest, and the facts show that we managed as well. Don’t you agree that our priority then was to fulfil a strong vaccination programme while starting the economic recovery? Even here we have managed,” Abela said.
He said that now is the time to look forward to the future, and that the focus now must be on how to create more opportuntiies than ever before for the people. A fresh start in Spring is necessary for this, so that the plan for the future of the country is set in stone and so people can move forward with their heads held high.
“That’s why I believe that the moment has come for me to come to you and to ask for your faith for my first mandate from the Maltese and Gozitans,” Abela said to rapturous applause, with the audience sensing that the all-important moment had come.
“In the coming hours, I will be going to the President and advise him to dissolve parliament for a general election to be held on 26 March,” the Prime Minister and Labour leader announced to elation from those present.
Announcing his party’s slogan as ‘Malta Flimkien’ – Malta Together – Abela said that the choice on 26 March has to be in favour of Maltese and Gozitans who work together, “as when Malta works together, nothing is impossible.”
With the last general election being in June 2017, speculation on when Abela would fire the starting pistol on the electoral campaign by announcing its date has been rife.
The rumour mill has churned up multiple possibilities over the past months, with it initially seeming like Malta would go to the polls in November of last year, when Covid-19 cases had seemingly subsided.
However, Abela did not take Malta to an election at that point, leading to speculation that sometime in March would be the preferred option, if not in June – a choice which would see Labour complete a full legislature in power for the first time since the legislature which started in 1981 and ended in 1987.
The election being held in March however takes Malta back to its previous electoral cycle, where the election was traditionally held in the third month of the year. Joseph Muscat’s decision to call a snap election for June 2017 broke that cycle.
Voting day will therefore be on Saturday 26 March, with Malta knowing who will lead the country for the following five years on the following day.
It also means that the election will be only a week before Pope Francis carries out his long-awaited visit to the country.
As per the most recent MaltaToday poll, the Labour Party holds a lead of around 36,000 votes – the same as the gap between the two parties in 2017 – over the Nationalist Party, although that gap was larger in a poll carried out earlier in the year.
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