Prime Minister Robert Abela and Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech are expected to go head-to-head in the fifth district in the upcoming general election.  

Labour sources confirmed that Abela would soon be announcing his intention to contest the next election on the fifth electoral district. Grech already confirmed he was contesting on district five last year.

The area includes Birżebbuġa, Kirkop, Mqabba, Ħal Farruġ, Luqa, Qrendi, Safi, and Żurrieq.  The district, known as ta’ wara l-mina (beyond the tunnel), is traditionally a Labour stronghold.

Last election, two-thirds of the 25,000 votes in that district were cast for Labour, with the remaining 33% going to PN candidates. 

Party insiders said Abela’s decision to contest on the district singles his desire to secure the largest possible vote count. Abela is expected to announce his intention to run on the fifth district when he addresses the party faithful in Mqabba on Sunday. 

While Abela’s announcement will be met with excitement from Labour voters in the area, it will likely not have gone down well with star candidate Miriam Dalli. 

The MEP-turned-cabinet-minister has also been confirmed as a candidate on the fifth district by the PL’s executive in recent weeks and will have been hoping to be Labour’s headline attraction on the ballot sheet.

Speculation has been rife within political circles over whether Abela will call an election this month. The current Labour administration’s term draws to a close in June. 

The prime minister can call a general election whenever he wishes but there is a minimum of 33 days between parliament’s dissolution and voting day that must be respected. 

If he were to call an election now, then the vote could be held on March 12.  This is the first date available to Abela and would require parliament to be dissolved on Monday.

Until a few days ago, rumours within PL circles were strongly indicating that this was a very likely date.

The Labour Party’s electoral machine had called in key figures in January and told them to get to work with an eye to an election campaign throughout February. 

Suppliers of electoral propaganda material and stage, lighting and sound companies had also been told to be prepared for a possible campaign in March.

However, there appears to have been a possible change of heart with insiders saying Abela is indicating this could be off the cards.

With polls strongly in Labour’s favour and the Christmas COVID pandemic surge gradually coming under control, March is still an attractive date.   The government has already announced it will be easing COVID-19 restrictive measures from Monday.

The PM has other options before him, including a possible election in May, or going the distance and having a vote in June. 

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us