Malta’s political landscape seems to be brimming with surprises. Just a few weeks ago, it was all quite stable, until key members of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s office were implicated and accused of somewhat being involved in knowing about the assassination mastermind, Yorgen Fenech. Following protests and mounting pressure, Joseph Muscat announced his intention to resign and a two-horse race between Chris Fearne and Robert Abela ensued.
Many were confident that Chris Fearne would snatch a comfortable victory, given his stature within the party structure and being Deputy Leader of the Labour party. It was therefore indeed a big surprise when Robert Abela overturned the odds and bleak survey predictions to become the next Prime Minister of Malta.
Robert Abela has been serving in Maltese Parliament for less than three years. Now the forty-two-year-old took his oath as Malta’s Prime Minister. To do so, he secured 57.9 per cent of the voters. His progression to Prime Minister comes as a surprise when considering that he never held a cabinet post and thus jumped from the backbench to the top post.
He hails from Qormi and was born on the 22nd of June, 1977. Something noteworthy to point out is that he is the son of former President George Abela. Ironically, he surpassed his father, as George Abela went toe to toe with Joseph Muscat in a bid to become Prime Minister and lost.
Robert Abela has kept a significantly low profile. He started building his profile in 2013, when the Labour party was elected to the government following many years of disappointment. During the leadership campaign, he emphasised that he was not new to the party and climbed through the ranks. He had started off in 1996 transporting sick people to polling stations. He also served in other roles such as representing the Labour party in current affairs programmes and as the legal advisor of Joseph Muscat.
One of the controversial moments in the run-up of this campaign was when Robert Abela referred to a diabolical pact. Although he tried to play down this comment, many believe that this was referred to other politicians who are suspected to have faced pressure to not compete against Chris Fearne.
Robert Abela was criticised for dodging media scrutiny, steering away from political controversy. He made the decision to focus solely on the party members who were ultimately, the sole deciders of his fate.
Amongst his initial decisions was the shifting of Ministers from different portfolios and the assurance that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s memorial would not be cleared after the vigil. It is also expected that Robert Abela will be proposing a new way how the police commissioner is selected, following Lawrence Cutajar’s resignation.
What do you think of the new Prime Minister Robert Abela? Will he surpass his predecessor in terms of political success? Let us know your views in the comments section below.