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Bring on the musical now

One can assume a musical about Prime Minister Joseph Muscat would be next, one like the notorious Ġensna, which was based on a mythology of Maltese history according to his predecessor, Dom Mintoff. Except this time around the musical would probably be about the cult of Dr Muscat himself because that is what he’s becoming or, at least, being promoted to become.

It has been building up, of course, after two stunning electoral successes that saw him riding on a wave that does not seem to falter, whatever gets thrown at him. His second term, which he said he will not see through, is reaffirming his mark on the country. And he is promising more, saying the best is yet to come but not a word on when he will go.

Building a cult status involves rewriting contemporary history, so it fits the mould. Cults in the postmodern age reflect political immaturity and that is all around to see. Yet, other than cult status, it is hard to find much in common between Dr Muscat and his fiery predecessor. Certainly not socialism.

On the 10th anniversary of his appointment as party leader, the Labour Party organised a mass event in Paola. The party had much to celebrate, especially given the shambles the Nationalist Party is in. It comes across as uncontested but this country has been here before and, yes, parties crumble with time and the country moves on without them.

Paola’s main square was a sea of partisan red flags, of celebrant admirers of the man who brought Labour out of the doldrums. There were elegies to Dr Muscat, of course, but when he emerged on stage, he tried to come across as a statesman and not a party leader, speaking of a ‘movement’ begun 10 years before, when what he then led, and still does, is really the Labour Party.

In spite of the sea of red before him, Dr Muscat’s formula of being open to all has worked, at least electorally. He managed to attract PN voters, if for nothing else, to be on the winning side, again.

That does not make their vote dependable but their support has not waned. And Dr Muscat wants even more to join his ‘movement’. He sounded confident he will get them.

Whoever masterminds events like that in Paola has his hand on the pulse of the nation. It was a partisan event of the worst kind and its appeal, and target, was to those who are repulsed by the very partisanship that make such events possible.

Dr Muscat pulls it through because he appears credible in the eyes of many. Yes, he has oratory skills, not equal to Mr Mintoff’s, but there are other media nowadays to compensate for the shortfall.

His key message that day came towards the end. He urged his listeners to embrace diversity to become a cosmopolitan society. It is a tall order, given the natural insularity of the island.

The presence of foreign workers has brought economic boom, butmany other problems too, especiallyin the housing sector for his hard-core supporters.

It is an ambition that appeals to people who were not in Paola. Dr Muscat may have reached beyond his grasp. It will be a hard sell.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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