The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Joseph Muscat Elected new MLP leader

Malta Independent Saturday, 7 June 2008, 00:00 Last update: about 8 years ago

Predictably, following Thursday’s overwhelming vote in favour of Joseph Muscat, the 34-year-old Member of the European Parliament was elected leader of the Malta Labour Party in a run-off with George Abela yesterday evening.

During Thursday’s five-pronged election, Dr Muscat was just three votes away from winning the leadership race (50 per cent plus one required) in the first round, having obtained 435 out of the 874 valid votes cast, against Dr Abela’s 200 votes.

The other three Labour leadership candidates, MPs Michael Falzon, Evarist Bartolo and Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, were eliminated on Thursday, having obtained 181, 32 and 26 votes respectively.

Yesterday, Dr Muscat obtained 66.4 per cent (574) of the 865 valid votes cast (10 votes were invalid), while Dr Abela obtained 33.6 per cent (291).

Giving his first comments on ONE TV shortly after the result was announced at 10.45pm, Dr Muscat said his election as Labour leader marked “a new political season”.

“This is a clear message to the people. The MLP has to be a party for everyone – all those who didn’t feel at home will be asked to return to the fold. The MLP will be a progressive party that will make Malta the best country in Europe.

“Our work has already started and I want the other Labour leadership contenders to form part of the exciting changes ahead. We will have an internal earthquake,” he said, his eyes sparkling with enthusiasm.

MLP delegates and supporters gathered outside the party headquarters both during and after the voting process, as they awaited the result of the run-off in earnest.

The three-hour voting process started at 5.30pm, an hour earlier than it did on Thursday, while the voting process in Gozo, which also started at 5.30pm, ended at 8pm as the ballot box had to be brought over to Malta. 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.

Following the reconciliation process, the vote sorting and counting process was relatively fast, compared to Thursday’s process, and Joe Falzon, the chairman of the MLP electoral commission announced the result at about 10.45pm.

Dr Muscat arrived at the MLP headquarters together with his wife, Michelle, and some supporters in Hamrun in a grey car shortly after the vote was announced.

They made their way into the main hall and the new MLP leader addressed the crowd, again saying, “This is a new political season”.

“I was not expecting this, to be honest,” he told the sizeable crowd in the hall, calling on them to attend his first meeting as Labour leader in Hamrun (on Sunday) tomorrow morning.

He thanked Dr Abela, telling him, “This is your home, there will always be a place for you here”, and went on to give a mention to each of the other MLP leadership contenders.

“A big thank you goes to the social heart of the party – Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca; I also want to thank the person who started me off in politics, the brains of the party – Evarist; and Michael Falzon, who represents steadiness in the party.”

These people are needed at the centre of the MLP, said Dr Muscat, adding that he will be seeking to bring back people who had not found their place in the party. “I will seek to bring everyone towards the MLP, from society’s biggest, to the smallest”

The new Labour leader also paid tribute to Labour veteran Gigi Gauci, whom he said was the model of idealism and youth. He said the MLP would be a party with a young mentality and repeated that it will be a party for everyone, and ended his short speech by calling on Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi: “The honeymoon is over, Dr Gonzi. We’re back in business”.

In a brief address to journalists, Dr Muscat said the party had to develop a good working relationship with the media and added that the Labour Party media would be one of his first projects. He also thanked the party’s electoral commission for its sterling work, saying nobody could doubt the transparency of the process.

Dr Muscat will answer journalists questions during a press conference following this morning’s Sette Giugno ceremony.

Dr Muscat will eventually need to be co-opted to Parliament to take over the role of Opposition Leader, temporarily in the hands of Notary Charles Mangion since Thursday following the resignation of Alfred Sant. It is up to the MLP to decide who of the current MPs will give up his place in the House to Dr Muscat.

Prior to the election, Dr Muscat had also said that he will be resigning from the European Parliament.

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