The Labour Party is known for the huge crowds of supporters who turn up to its mass meetings. 

However, the size of the venue chosen for Joseph Muscat's farewell speech on Friday evening has surprised the party's supporters.

Questions have been raised about the choice of Corradino Sports Pavillion, in Paola, which sources say has a capacity of between 5,000 - 6,000 people.

That's a far cry from the 17,500 eligible to vote in Saturday's leadership election. Sources said Friday's event is also open to the party faithful which means that numbers are not curtailed to those eligible to vote.

The party posted a picture of the venue - a basketball court with stands on each side - on its official Facebook page, showing final preparations underway. 

In the comments underneath, concerned supporters suggested it was too small for an event promoted as Dr Muscat's final send-off after more than 11 years as leader and six as prime minister.

“People will end up getting injured in such a small space. There isn’t even space for a pin. Did you really think no one will be attending?” wrote one.

“Are you seriously organising this event there? It’s not worth enticing people to attend with such a tiny space. Change the location," another commented.

The party spokesman told Times of Malta that the choice depended very much on the weather so the party sought somewhere indoors as the congress cannot be postponed. He said the sports complex was the only large indoor venue that was available this weekend. 

However a Labour Party source told Times of Malta that the decision to host the event at such a small venue had been taken when the country was still very much in the grips of a political crisis.

Dr Muscat announced last month that he would resign after the fall-out from the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation, that saw his former chief of staff arrested and questioned. 

The concern at the time was that turn out may be low, party sources say. The party had also been concerned that poor weather could have affected turn out if the event had been held at a larger outdoors location.

The Labour party is known for the thousands of people who turn up to its mass meetings. Photo: Facebook/PLThe Labour party is known for the thousands of people who turn up to its mass meetings. Photo: Facebook/PL

Had the party opted for other venues which are usually picked for Labour’s mass meetings, it could cater for the thousands expected to attend.

According to  mapchecking.com, a website which estimates the number of people that fit in a given space, the Granaries in Floriana could fit almost 53,000 people with four people per square metre of the open area. 

Likewise, Castille Square could take 11,000, ─Žal Far and Triton Square could fit 60,000 each while the roads where the Labour Party usually organises its mass meetings could see them fitting 66,500 in Vjal il-Kottoner in Fgura, 40,000 in Hompesch Road, also in Fgura, and 36,500 in Triq il-Konvoy ta Santa Marija in Mqabba.

A Labour mass meeting in Castille SquareA Labour mass meeting in Castille Square

There is ample expectation for the speech in which Dr Muscat is expected to announce his decision on his future and whether he will stay on as a backbencher in the Labour parliamentary group or retire from politics. 

 

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