The Malta Independent 18 November 2018, Sunday

Sant’s Political career comes to an end after 26 years

Malta Independent Tuesday, 11 March 2008, 00:00 Last update: about 12 years ago

Alfred Sant’s political career spanned a total of 26 years. He started off as chairman of the MLP information department in 1982 and was president of the Labour Party between 1984 and 1988.

He contested the general elections in 1987 and was co-opted after the death of Labour MP Joseph P. Sciberras.

Dr Sant then successfully contested the 1992 general election. He succeeded party leader Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici on 26 March 1992 and when the MLP was elected to Parliament in 1996, he became prime minister and interior minister.

His first goals as MLP leader was to build the new party headquarters in Hamrun, open the party’s television station, Super One TV and run Super One Radio professionally.

Under Dr Sant’s direction, Super One TV started transmissions on a fixed schedule. The party also began to publish its weekly newspaper Kulhadd in 1993.

Unfortunately the Labour Party only won the 1996 election under Dr Sant’s 16-year leadership and the Labour government’s term lasted just 22 months.

Before the 1996 election, Dr Sant had campaigned for the removal of the Value Added Tax (VAT), which had been introduced a year earlier.

A year after taking office, the Labour government replaced VAT by a similar indirect tax, the Customs and Excise Tax (CET) which proved to be very unpopular.

Enjoying a mere one-seat majority, the 1996-1998 Labour government was shaky right from the start, and things came to a head in the summer of 1998, when a row with former MLP leader and prime minister Dom Mintoff over a coastal concession to a private company resulted in a governmental defeat over the motion regarding the transfer of land.

Dr Sant felt that, in the circumstances, the government’s parliamentary majority was compromised and asked the President to dissolve the House of Representatives. The MLP then suffered a defeat in the subsequent elections held in September 1998.

The 1996-1998 Labour government had also frozen Malta’s application for membership of the EU.

In the run-up to the March 2003 referendum regarding EU membership, Dr Sant had criticised what he referred to as a “sham referendum”, insisting that a general election alone would settle the EU membership issue. He had called on Labour supporters to vote No, abstain or invalidate their vote. He himself had abstained.

The referendum had been won by the “Yes” side, by a 54-46 per cent margin, but Dr Sant claimed to have won the referendum as less than half the number of registered voters had voted “Yes”.

In view of the lack of consensus on the interpretation of the result, Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami had asked the President to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections. These were held in April 2003 and the Malta Labour Party was again defeated at the polls.

Dr Sant had tendered his resignation as party leader, but he had still stood for the leadership race, which had been contested by two other candidates, John Attard Montalto and Anglu Farrugia.

Dr Sant was re-elected party leader with 66 per cent of votes cast by Labour Party delegates. He led the party for another five years until last weekend’s election. Following his third electoral defeat, he resigned yesterday.

Dr Sant is also well-known for his literary involvement. He was chairman of the Guzè Ellul Mercer Foundation and Sensiela Kotba Socjalisti.

He was editor of the magazine Tomorrow (1982-1985) and Society (1989-1992). Apart from cultural journalism, Dr Sant is an established writer of plays, novels and short stories.

Apart from being the author of hundreds of articles in the local press, Dr Sant also had other literary and research works published in the Journal of Physics (1969), in Financing of Public Enterprises in Developing Countries, and also in Elimination of Waste in Public Enterprises.

Sources: Schiavone Michael J., Scerri Louis J., Maltese Biographies of the Twentieth Century, wikipedia.org

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