The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

TMID Editorial: Labour Party - Co-options for the future

Wednesday, 21 October 2020, 08:50 Last update: about 2 months ago

The resignations of Joseph Muscat and Etienne Grech from their positions as MPs have given the opportunity to the Labour Party to bring in fresh faces into the House of Representatives.

Muscat’s resignation could have led to a casual election, but the only two candidates who could contest – Stefan Buontempo and Mark Causon – opted out, presumably on the advice coming from Hamrun. Grech’s quitting could not have led to a casual election, because he had himself availed of one to get his seat.

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This meant that the Labour Party could co-opt two new MPs to Parliament, and the party has chosen wisely with a view to not only seek its interests in what has remained of this legislature – a year and a half – but also for the next term and beyond.

Miriam Dalli and Clyde Caruana have been unanimously approved by the party administration to replace Muscat and Grech. This will probably be followed by a Cabinet reshuffle, allowing Abela to give ministerial appointments to both of them.

It is unlikely that Miriam Dalli gave up her lucrative post in Brussels to sit on the back bench. It is also improbable that Caruana accepted to move from the chief of staff position to an MP without getting something in return.

There are strong rumours that the budget that was presented last Monday was the last for Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, with Caruana clearly tipped to be his substitute. Miriam Dalli is also expected to be given a place in the Cabinet (if and) when this reshuffle takes place.

But there is more to Labour’s plan. It must be remembered that, during the course of this legislature, the PL has lost a number of MPs who were very popular with the electorate, and who will not be contesting the next election, slated from the first half of 2022.

Apart from the already-mentioned Muscat who, needless to say, was the candidate who obtained the most votes in the last election, the PL has lost Chris Cardona, Konrad Mizzi and Helena Dalli. The first two had also served as deputy leaders in the past, and before their resignation (Cardona) or dismissal from the parliamentary group (Mizzi) they had both been able to garner thousands of first preferences in the elections they contested.

Helena Dalli, who resigned to take on a new role as Malta’s European Commissioner, had been elected on two districts last time round.

The Labour Party therefore needed to bring in new heavyweight politicians to replace them. Miriam Dalli obtained the largest number of first preferences in the last MEP elections, and is extremely popular among the Labour electorate so much so that she was being touted as a possible replacement of Muscat as party leader and prime minister.

Caruana is less known, but he has served the PL well in these past years and, if he does take over Scicluna’s place as Finance Minister, will get the chance to prove himself further in the remaining months until the election.

So it is clear that Labour has cleverly grabbed the opportunity of the most recent resignations and used them to its own advantage by bringing in candidates who will not only serve out the rest of the legislature, but will play an important role in both this term and afterwards.

 

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