16 APRIL 2003

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Toon this week: Labour Pains

Abela among favourites to lead Labour

Malta has taken one major step forward to strengthening its democracy and aligning itself with the strongest economic bloc in the region. With the Malta Labour Party now looking more likely to accept EU membership, the possibility of finding convergence between all the political parties on its foreign policy should be welcomed by all.
Malta needs stability, and a Labour Party still threatening to pull Malta out of the EU would be the least desirable scenario imaginable.
The business community simply cannot afford more years of uncertainty. We need to be able to look ahead with some certainty so that an atmosphere suitable for attracting new investment can be created.
All of Malta awaits change within the Labour Party and looks forward to having two large parties that can communicate with each other, if not agree entirely on important issues.
The big question now is exactly what form new Labour will take. The leadership race is on, and among the front runners expect to find Evarist Bartolo, George Abela, John Attard Montalto, Marie Louise Coleiro, Jose Herrera, Michael Falzon and Angelo Farrugia.
Evarist Bartolo and George Abela are probably considered the front runners, but staking bets on Maltese leadership contests is a risky business.
George Abela is one of two on our list that is not a member of Parliament and if chosen would not be the first Labour Party leader to come from outside parliament in recent history.
Evarist Bartolo has a good mind and a clean track record, and may be the kind of person Labour is looking for to attract middle class voters. He did, however, stand by Alfred Sant through thick and thin and more than anything else has not proved himself in terms of leadership qualities. He may be a good right hand man to the next Labour leader.
In an opinion piece on our sister paper, MaltaToday, Abela’s leadership bid was called into question, especially because he failed to stand up and be counted when he could have pointed the party in a different direction.
Yesterday, however, a sizeable number of influential people contacted us and we are encouraged to believe that Abela may just be the right candidate.
The Malta Financial and Business Times believes that Malta need to find convergence on economic issues, in its direction vis a vis Europe, as well as in fiscal matters.
That Labour requires an overhaul is undisputed and someone coming from the outside may well be better positioned to make the right decisions.
It is not just the top men that need to be changed, but the positions of Secretary General and Party President should also be put on the line.
George Abela may be the person who could live up to all the challenges the Malta Labour Party faces, and while all the other contenders have their plus points they all come with some baggage.
The Nationalist Party in government faces some considerable challenges of its own – more of an uphill battle really.
There is the Acquis Communitaire that has to be adopted in its entirety – no mean task, and this Nationalist administration will be called on to deliver in all those areas that it did not over the past five years, especially tackling the budget deficit, restoring business confidence, and improving public administration, the environment and roads. Electoral reform and pension reform will also be essential and the PN will also be called on to tackle all the other issues that have been ignored. With a more reasonable Opposition it is possible that some progress will be registered, but a party in what can be considered its fourth term in office will never be at its best.
In the long term interests of the nation and democracy it is essential that we have a Labour Party ready and deserving of taking power in five year’s time. The General Conference due in three or four week’s time will be the first indicator of what we can expect.

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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