The Malta Independent 9 August 2020, Sunday

TMID Editorial: New PL appointments – One-horse races and machinations

Tuesday, 7 July 2020, 08:03 Last update: about 2 months ago

There were times when the Labour Party had harshly criticised its political opponents for holding what they said was a one-horse race.

It happened twice in recent years. The first was in 2012 when former Nationalist Party leader Lawrence Gonzi, then also prime minister, was under fire and his leadership was being questioned. Gonzi had then taken the step to hold an election for the leadership. He had been the only one to submit a nomination, and he had been re-confirmed as PN leader with more than 95% of the votes cast.

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The second occasion was around this time last year, in different circumstances as the PN was now in opposition, when Adrian Delia put his leadership on the line in a vote of confidence, which he had won with two-thirds of preferences. This time had been no election for a leader, but if Delia had not passed that test there would have been one.

The Labour Party had mocked the PN’s processes, belittled them and described them as a charade. But now it finds itself in a similar situation as it searches for a new deputy leader for party affairs following the resignation of Chris Cardona. Only one candidate has submitted his nomination, and so no election is required. When the vote is taken later this month, the current president, Daniel Micallef, would just need an endorsement to become the party’s deputy leader.

Not only this. All other positions up for grabs when the Labour conference convenes on 25 July have only one contestant. Ramona Attard will replace Micallef as president, as she was the only one to submit her nomination. Louis Gatt is the sole contender for the post of vice-president, William Lewis the single candidate for the post of organisational secretary and Marc Vella Bonnici is the only person to submit his candidacy for the post of international secretary.

So, all in all, they will all be one-horse races.

Of course, the circumstances in which Gonzi had asked for a re-confirmation and Delia had requested a vote of confidence were both extraordinary. Gonzi’s government was facing a crisis after a confidence vote in Parliament passed only thanks to the Speaker’s casting vote, while Delia had been facing constant internal pressure for months, a situation that has not changed much as he continues to confront internal dissent.

But one cannot say that the Labour Party is changing its deputy leader in pleasant circumstances. In fact, it was a necessity brought about by extraordinary facts too. Cardona resigned for very serious reasons as well, including his name coming up in court proceedings related to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

His resignation triggered a process for his replacement, but it was immediately clear that Labour had something in mind as it tried to keep the lid on what is effectively a crisis brought about by the allegations against Cardona.

Micallef’s name instantly came up, and there was talk that he was the natural choice for the post. Labour went one step further by changing its statute to eliminate the possibility that MPs could contest for this position, effectively paving the way for Micallef’s sole nomination. That, then, Micallef’s own replacement was also “hand-picked” – given that Attard is the only candidate – adds to the impression that machinations were in place to avoid confrontations in the party and get the process over as quickly as possible, without any internal skirmishes.

Labour is saying this has happened because it is a united party, but it does not take away the fact that one-horse races are more often than not organised to suit exigencies and that Micallef’s soon-to-be appointment came after one of its top people had been involved in a serious political storm.

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