12 MARCH 2003

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Labour revolt quashed by Sant’s timely action

It was revealed to The Malta Financial and Business Times yesterday that when meeting with the National Executive on Monday, Opposition leader Alfred Sant scolded members of the executive for looking at this weekend’s referendum in terms of mere numbers.
Dr Sant then went on to add that if they wanted to win the forthcoming elections, then the way forward was his way.
Malta and Gozo had suffered a rude awakening on Monday morning. This was similar to the 1981 predicament, but this time no constitutional clause could validate the false interpretation of result.
Alfred Sant had stooped to a record low. On Sunday, in the light of a 20,000 swing in favour of Europe, he trailblazed the security cordons at Ta’ Qali and cushioned all talk of defeat and claimed victory when he should have been accepting a loss at the polls.
MLP counting agents were told to smile and show confidence, with propaganda chief Manwel Cuschieri lying through his teeth about a Labour victory. Super One TV relayed images of helpers preparing for a celebration rally.
It appeared surreal but it was true.
The height of Dr Sant’s irresponsibility reached epic proportions when he announced that people should attend the rally, knowing all too well, that IVA supporters were on the roads celebrating their ‘part’ of the victory.
Breaking all respect for democratic principles, the man from Harvard declared the ‘yes’ vote had not prevailed. The man who had previously declared he had no idea how he would interpret the result, had a sudden inspiration as to how he could take full advantage of the referendum result.
Knowing perfectly well that 19,000 plus voters represented the difference between the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ vote, he still chose to misinterpret the result. Aided by his propaganda chiefs and acolytes, he managed to introduce some form of vigour in the Labour camp. But the feeling on the periphery of the party was looking fragile yesterday, with deputy leader Dr George Vella showing physical signs of concern at his stance and others silent, or far from enthusiastic, with Alfred Sant’s new mathematical prowess.
And yesterday, in the courts, MLP candidates and members of parliament were openly questioning his stance. Privately, many in the Labour hierarchy are disgusted with the Leader of the Opposition’s actions of the past few days. Several Labour leaning lawyers were seen shaking their heads in disbelief when the topic was brought up in conversation.
However, no one in the MLP ranks has had the audacity to publicly question the Sant position.
What could have been a major coup was effectively quashed by Alfred Sant, who spelled out Labour’s position immediately, pre-empting any possible discussion on Labour’s direction and his leadership.
The closest anyone has come to questioning Alfred Sant was Lino Spiteri writing in the press yesterday. Even his erstwhile colleague, George Abela a former deputy leader of the MLP could not find the courage to stand up and be counted.
Alfred Sant’s reaction to the referendum victory may work against him in the end. His abrasive and unacceptable remarks have left a mark on the middle ground, the electoral segment he has tried so hard to impress in his attempt to win support.
Many moderate labourites have also expressed dismay at Sant’s dysfunctional political judgement.
As he prepares for the general election on April 12, his opponents watch with veiled respect and trepidation. Many are worried that his return to power will take Malta back to yesteryear.
The business community is also anxious about the election outcome, hoping the general elections will kill all uncertainty. The business community also looks to the election as the key to widening its investment and business possibilities.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, 2 Cali House, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 02, Malta
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