The starter pistol for a new season of political campaigning will be fired on Monday, as Prime Minister Robert Abela and Leader of the Opposition Bernard Grech are set to hold competing, simultaneous mass events.
If rumours of a November election earlier in summer were anything to go by, these meetings should also mark the start of the election campaigning season.
However, this speculation has not yet been confirmed by the Prime Minister, who has the imperative to call an election at whichever point he deems to be appropriate (before the constitutional limit a year from now).
In fact, as the month draws closer and no announcement is made, it seems less and less likely that the election will actually take place in November, and more likely it will be held in the first half of 2022.
But, Dr Abela has also refused to rule out a November election, leaving affected parties wallowing in uncertainty.
BusinessNow.mt reached out to some of these affected parties – a business group, in the form of the Malta Chamber of SMEs and an employers’ group, the Malta Employers’ Association (MEA) – to ask for their stance on when an election should take place.
A Christmas ruined?
Speaking as a representative of the SME Chamber, which has many retail businesses as members, CEO Abigail Mamo warned that a November election threatens to detract from the much-needed festive season boom.
For retail operators struggling after a year-and-a-half punctuated by intermittent closures, November has the potential to be a very strong month.
Aside from its proximity to Christmas, the period sees one of the most popular day of sales, in the form of Black Friday.
One of Malta’s notoriously “heavy” elections fraught with controversy, could disrupt consumer sentiments and the festive feel-good factor, leading them to spend less, the CEO said.
Indeed, the sector has seen this before. During the 2019 political crisis in Malta, which kicked off in November with mass protests, Ms Mamo reflects that some businesses reported that sales were significantly impacted.
The risk of such a disruption is alarming to local businesses, and the CEO stated that the SME Chamber is hoping for an election early next year instead of in November.
An announcement to mitigate uncertainty
On the part of the MEA, its President Joanne Bondin explained to BusinessNow.mt that as far as the association is concerned, the priority should be that date is announced as soon as possible.
“The most important thing that the country needs right now is stability,” she said.
“The sooner the date is announced, whether this year or the next, is better so that the instability brought about by any election is minimised.”
Ms Bondin also addressed that a new Government Budget is due in October and that an election soon after this might not help with stability in the country.
“We also need to keep in mind the pandemic, the initiatives being taken to get out of it smoothly and the long-term strategies for the country,” she added.
Asked about whether the pre-election poaching of private-sector employees previously decried by the MEA would continue to wreak havoc the later the election takes place, Ms Bondin answered that “these actions need to be avoided at all times,” not just in election seasons.
“Although this poaching may be intensified pre-election, the drain of talent from the private sector to the public sector has an impact at any time. It is not ok for someone to feel like they can go to a government minister and ask them for a job.”
“It is even worse for a government minister to accommodate such a request. That is why we have proposed a moratorium on public sector jobs six months prior to an election, excluding critical jobs,” she said.
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