Sociologist from Malta

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Op-ed column in the Malta Independent

My op-ed column in the Malta Independent returns on Thursday 9 January 2019. I wish to thank the Malta Independent for this opportunity and to readers for your encouragement and feedback. 

I wish you peace during the festive season and beyond. 


The Roots of Muscat's Labour (3) - Michael Briguglio

Two weeks ago my blog published my 2001 MA thesis in Sociology 'Ideological and Strategic Shifts From Old Labour to New Labour In Malta' which compared Malta's Labour Party in the 1970s and 80s with that of the 1990s. I had found similarities and shifts within Labour, and such characteristics may help us understand Labour's power today. 


Last week my blog published my 2010 follow-up to this study. Entitled 'Malta'sLabour Party and the Politics of Hegemony', the paper argued that Labour's strategy under Joseph Muscat, which I dubbed 'politics without adversaries' is akin to convenient alliance-building for electoral purposes, one that may turn out to be effective only for maintaining the status quo. In last weeks' blog I argued that in hindsight, and taking into consideration Malta's current political crisis, we can say that under Muscat, Labour's alliances exceeded the boundaries of what we normally include within electoral strategy in liberal democracies. 

In the meantime, in 2013 I co-authored another study on Malta's Labour Party with University of Malta colleague Prof Roderick Pace. Entitled 'Malta', the study comprised a chapterin the Palgrave Handbook of Social Democracy in the European Union (Edited by Jean-Michel de Waele, Fabien Escalona and Mathieu Vieira). 

This study looked into Labour's history, organization, electoral results, relation to power and institutions and programmatic positioning. 

Pace and I argued that the main challenge of Malta’s Labour Party in the 2010s was  to be in Government: Save for the brief 22-month interval between 1996 and 1998, Labour had been in opposition since 1987. Prior to 1996, the last time the Party won a majority of votes in a general election was in 1976.

We added that for this reason, winning the general election became almost  an end in itself, more than a means to an end. We stated that judging the Party’s strategy under Muscat’s leadership, it can be seen as attempting a replica of its 1996 strategy, creating a politics without adversaries, which attempts to bypass conflicting interests, as I argued in my 2010 study. 

Therefore, we argued, in this case, the 2013 electoral victory also represents a balancing act attempting to reconcile the various interests which Labour had managed to persuade in its favour prior to the general election.   We also hypothesized that conversely, Labour’s victory can also be interpreted as a means to an end. A new hegemonic formation might have been constructed, as happened under Mintoff’s premiership during the 1970s; then, Malta’s welfare state was radically expanded and various changes took place in economic and foreign policy, inspired by socialist and nationalist ideology, in a context of patronage, as I argued in my 2001 study. 

Thus, in 2013 Roderick Pace and I concluded that with Labour now in government, it would be interesting to observe how the ‘moderate and progressive’ banner can be transposed in terms of policy, and whether this will represent a shift from the Nationalist hegemonic formation which had begun in 1987 and which was inspired by ideologies such as Catholicism and consumerism.

Malta's current political crisis sheds much light on Labour's governance. Scholarly studies in political sociology and political science can substantiate evidence from the past 6 years through analysis. 



PN, Egrant, Democracy - Michael Briguglio

PN, in its constitutional role as Opposition, did the right thing in keeping up the fight to have the full Egrant report published. Let us not diminish the essential political fact that the Opposition has a vital role in the functioning and safeguarding of democracy. Divide and rule serves the ruling forces. The same forces which looked invincible until just recently.


Sunday, December 15, 2019

Is Malta embracing activism? Interview with Times of Malta


Andre' Callus from Moviment Graffitti and I were respectively interviewed by Claire Caruana on the status of activism today. The article appears in today's Sunday Times of Malta. You can read it from this link: 


Thursday, December 12, 2019

A crook-proof Constitution - Michael Briguglio

In my fortnightly column in the Malta Independent, I discuss the challenges facing Malta's constitutional reform, including key areas it should cover and the methodology of the consultative process. You can read the article via this link:

https://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2019-12-12/blogs-opinions/A-crook-proof-Constitution-6736217361


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The roots of Muscat's Labour (2) - Michael Briguglio


Last week my blog published my 2001 MA thesis in Sociology 'Ideological and Strategic Shifts From Old Labour to New Labour In Malta' which compared Malta's Labour Party in the 1970s and 80s with that of the 1990s. I had found similarities and shifts within Labour, and such characteristics may help us understand Labour's power today. 

In 2010 I published a follow-up to this study. Entitled 'Malta's Labour Party and the Politics of Hegemony', the paper argued that Labour's strategy under Joseph Muscat, which I dubbed 'politics without adversaries' is akin to convenient alliance-building for electoral purposes, one that may turn out to be effective only for maintaining the status quo. In hindsight, and taking into consideration Malta's current political crisis, we can say that under Muscat, Labour's alliances exceeded the boundaries of what we normally include within electoral strategy in liberal democracies. 

The paper was published in peer-reviewed academic journal 'Socialism and Democracy'  (Routledge, Taylor & Francis), and can be accessed from these links:

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The roots of Muscat's Labour (1) - Michael Briguglio

Back in 2001, my MA thesis in Sociology 'Ideological and Strategic Shifts From Old Labour to New Labour In Malta' compared Malta's Labour Party in the 1970s and 80s with that of the 1990s. I found similarities and shifts within Labour. Such characteristics may help us understand Labour's power today.  Incidentally, the study starts off by querying a certain Joseph Muscat.... 

You can download the dissertation here:

Chapter 1 Introduction - Click here
Chapter 2 Theoretical and Methodological Background - Click here
Chapter 3 The Malta Labour Party in perspective 1920-1987 - Click here
Chapter 4 The Malta Labour Party in pespective 1987-1998 - Click here
Chapter 5 New Labour and the Third Way in Britain and Europe -  Click here
Chapter 6 Old Labour in Malta - Click here
Chapter 7 The Construction of New Labour in Malta -  Click here
Chapter 8 Malta's New Labour in Government - Click here
Chapter 9 Conclusion - Click here

My full list of academic publications: 



Image result for alfred sant joseph muscat

Monday, December 02, 2019

How is Muscat's defiance possible? Michael Briguglio

So Joseph Muscat will resign from Prime Minister and Labour leader next month. He is clearly defying the calls from the Opposition, civil society and independent media to quit immediately. 

How is Muscat's defiance possible? The Labour cabinet and parliamentary group have given their blessing in what looks like an internal compromise, a condensation of different interests, that forces Muscat to leave but which gives him time to scrape to the bottom for damage limitation whilst he remains in power.

In raw terms, power understands the language of power and can only be replaced by stronger power. 

A hegemonic formation. 


Sunday, December 01, 2019

Girgenti - Are we serious? Michael Briguglio

Following today's Girgenti meeting, Labour's parliamentary group gave unanimous support to the Prime Minister for “all decisions he will take” after a “free discussion” in which all MPs participated, according to a Labour Party statement.

Unless this is face-saving PR through which Muscat has been constrained to declare that he will resign imminently, this statement looks like another example of Muscat-speak: All praise for the great leader, giving him time to scrape to the bottom to protect the gang of crooks whilst he remains in power. 

I think it is more a case of the latter. I hope I am wrong. 

In the meantime, the call for Joseph Muscat to resign imminently is growing within civil society, and there are signs of increased unity within the Opposition. 



 

It-Torċa survey: Muscat is less popular than Labour - Michael Briguglio

The front page of GWU newspaper it-Torċa should have read 'Muscat less popular than Labour', but instead it tried to put on a brave face in relation to his untenable situation. 

Some numbers from it-Torċa:

- 46.5 per cent want Muscat to stay on as Prime Minister.

- Muscat's trust rating has gone down from 58 per cent in September to 51.3 per cent now.

- Gap between the two major parties is declining and close to 2017 election levels. Last September PL was at 58.1 per cent of the votes, with the PN being close to 39 per cent. Now, 55.5 per cent are saying they would vote Labour, whilst 42.7 per cent said they would vote PN. This translates into a lead of 12.8 per cent for Labour, or a majority of 40,000 votes, according to statistician Vince Marmara. 

Some other numbers:


- In the 2017 General elections Labour won 55.04 per cent of votes, with the Forza Nazzjonali (PN+PD) winning 43.68 per cent.

- In the 2019 MEP elections, Labour won 54.29 per cent of votes, with the PN winning 37.9 per cent. 

Around 100,000 registered voters did not vote in the 2019 MEP elections.  They represent 27.3 per cent of the vote, the highest ever abstention rate since the introduction of European elections in Malta in 2004.


Even though surveys are important tools to gauge people's perceptions, they cannot tell us everything about politics. For example, they cannot predict sudden political shifts and historic changes.


In the meantime I reiterate that Muscat may well be using this time left as Prime Minister to manouver to protect the gang of crooks. We had similar tricks in the past years. His clear conflict of interests tell us that he should resign or be removed from Prime Minister immediately. 

For every day he remains gripped to the role of Prime Minister, we should stand up to be counted. 

Unity, opposition to Muscat both externally and internally, numbers and commitment are key factors to dethrone him.