The Malta Independent 24 September 2021, Friday

Election For Malta Labour Party leader: Muscat three votes short of leadership

Malta Independent Friday, 6 June 2008, 00:00 Last update: about 8 years ago

A run-off between Dr Joseph Muscat and Dr George Abela for the post of Malta Labour Party leader was expected by many, but few would have thought that Dr Muscat would have been so close to victory in the first round of elections, held last night.

In fact, Dr Muscat was just three votes short of winning the contest, obtaining 435 of the 874 valid votes cast, three fewer than the 438 needed (50 per cent plus one). He garnered 49.8 per cent of valid votes cast while the combined number of votes of the other contestants was 50.2 per cent.

Dr Abela came second with 22.9 per cent (200 votes) while outgoing Deputy Leader for Party Affairs Michael Falzon came in third with 20.7 per cent (181 votes). Evarist Bartolo and Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca obtained 3.7 per cent (32 votes) and 2.9 per cent (26 votes) respectively.

A second ballot is to be held tonight unless Dr Abela concedes defeat. Dr Falzon, Mr Bartolo and Ms Coleiro Preca have been eliminated.

Ten out of the 889 delegates eligible to vote did not pick up their voting document while five votes were invalid.

A sizeable crowd was anxiously expecting the result outside the party headquarters’ hall entrance at St Joseph High Street, with crowds of people discussing and debating each contestant’s chances of winning the election. Once no clear winner was established, they returned home.

Yesterday’s extraordinary general meeting started at 6pm with MLP president Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi proposing a motion of appreciation towards Acting Leader Charles Mangion, who was at that moment being sworn in as Opposition Leader by President Eddie Fenech Adami.

Electoral Commission chairman Joseph Falzon then gave a brief outline of how the electoral process was going to proceed.

One of the assembled delegates suggested that each candidate’s agent signs a joint declaration testifying that the electoral process was carried out with the utmost transparency.

Mr Falzon replied that the electoral commission had asked each contestant to sign a similar declaration, which however not everyone signed.

He stressed the point that the commission did not oblige contestants to sign the declaration.

Voting commenced at 6.30pm and lasted until 9pm. The voting process in Gozo also started at 6.30pm but finished at 8pm as the 98 Gozitan delegates voted at Grand Hotel, Mgarr.

The Gozo ballot box was transferred to Hamrun where the voting documents reconciliation was double-checked and its contents added to the other votes.

After announcing the official results at 1am last night, Mr Falzon said that voting will today take place between 5.30pm and 8.30pm in Malta, and from 5.30pm to 7pm in Gozo.

The date for the extraordinary general meeting was set on 18 March after a six-hour-long joint meeting of the MLP parliamentary group and the executive.

On the same day, the group agreed on entrusting a group of people with the drafting of a post-election report, which was completed nine weeks later.

The report proved to be damning for the party administration and embittered the contest.

The race for the party top spot started almost immediately after Dr Alfred Sant announced on 10 March that he would be resigning from his post as MLP leader. Dr Muscat, Dr Falzon and Ms Coleiro-Preca showed an interest in throwing their hat in the contest just a few days after Dr Sant’s resignation.

Yet the MEP was the first one to officially announce his intention to run for the job, running under the slogan “Winning Generation”. Dr Falzon was next as he announced his intentions on 29 March and chose “With experience and loyalty together for success” as his slogan. Mr Bartolo’s declaration followed on 31 March with “Ready to lead and to serve” as his slogan. Ms Coleiro-Preca who ran under her slogan of “Keeping close to the people”, made her intentions official on 4 April

Dr Abela was the last one of the five to formally announce his intention of running for the party leadership as his position was under scrutiny by the party’s internal electoral commission.

It was examining his eligibility for contesting the MLP leadership, since he was a paid-up member but not a delegate. In fact, he was the only contestant who did not vote yesterday.

He broke out the news of his candidature on 13 April during a public meeting held at the Cospicua Regatta Club. His slogan was “Leadership that brings success”.

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