Muscat appeals to undecided voters

Muscat appeals to undecided voters. Video: Paul Spiteri Lucas

Labour leader Joseph Muscat this afternoon called on undecided voters to hit the polling booths on March 9 during a Floriana mass meeting bigger than any other PL event in this campaign.

"Not voting is not a strong enough signal. You'll be saying thanks to those who tried to run roughshod over you these past five years," he told a crowd of thousands who packed the Granaries.

He urged those still hesitant to vote PL to take the plunge, framing their choice as one between a politics that was past its sell-by date "and the once-in-a-lifetime occasion to write a new chapter in this country's history".

That change required one final push from the PL's supporters, Dr Muscat said, as he told the crowd to ignore the polls and keep urging people to vote Labour.

"Surveys and numbers count for nothing, it is only votes that matter," he said.

The PL leader divided his speech into miniature rallying calls for various sectors, telling teachers that Labour would invest heavily in them, youths that the PL would guarantee their stipends in full and prioritise youth unemployment, and the disabled that the provision of community housing would be the key focal point of the PL's social policy.

He saluted the self-employed, telling them they would be the motors of economic growth and telling the crowd "we are proud of being called pro-business, because being pro-business means being pro-work".

Pensioners who had, through no fault of their own, not accumulated enough national insurance contributions to guarantee an adequate pension would be given the opportunity to straighten things out, he said.

Those on minimal pensions would also benefit from the PL's pledge to gradually raise the minimum pension, he said. "Some people's monthly pension is equal to the weekly raise of others," he said, prompting a roar from those present. "And that's why we won't be raising politicians' salaries. First the people, and then the politicians."

Dr Muscat dismissed the Nationalist Party's energy proposals, saying its well of ideas had "run dry" and arguing that ratings agency Standards and Poor's had cast doubts on the government's interconnector completion date.

PL deputy leader Louis Grech spoke before Dr Muscat.

He characterised the PN as "more of the same", a party in denial that "believes it has a divine right to govern this country". The PL's emphasis on unity was reflected in popular sentiment, he said, and predicted that changing attitudes to improve meritocracy, accountability and objectivity - "especially in broadcasting" - would be the PL government's greatest challenge.

People wearing Ucuh Maltin t-shirts were already milling around Floriana before noon. By 2pm, the rally's size was apparent, with the Granaries a sea of white and red.

Danish indie pop band A Friend in London were also on hand to provide pre-speech entertainment. Although many of their songs drew blank stares from the crowd, the adopted PL anthem "A New Tomorrow", sung with the backing of a children's choir, went down a storm - save for an awkward moment when a young audience member was unwittingly hauled onto the stage and encouraged to sing along into the microphone.

Although the political rally has now drawn to a close, an energetic, electronic music-fuelled after-party is in full swing.



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