Labour MPs Chris Fearne and Robert Abela are the two candidates in the running to replace Joseph Muscat as party leader and prime minister. We take a closer look at who the two men are. 

Chris Fearne

The 56-year-old paediatric surgeon is currently Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister.  

He was first elected to public office as an MP following Labour’s 2013 electoral landslide victory. 

Chris Fearne.Chris Fearne.

In a 2014 Cabinet reshuffle he became Health Parliamentary Secretary and eventually took over the Health Ministry in 2016, after Konrad Mizzi was stripped of ministerial duties for his role in the Panama Papers scandal.  

In the summer of 2017, Mr Fearne entered the race for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party.

Although then-Equality Minister Helena Dalli was touted as the party leadership’s favourite, Mr Fearne won that election and was elected deputy leader for parliamentary affairs, having also beaten Finance Minister Edward Scicluna.  

Mr Fearne’s Labour credentials date back to his youth, when he was an active member of the Mintoff-era Labour youth movement Għaqda Zagħzagħ Soċjalisti

His backers in this race credit him with having steered clear of political controversy since taking up political office and paint a picture of a moderate politician with socialist views. 

They also say he will "clean up shop" and usher in higher political standards, following the crisis surrounding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.     

His dissenters say Mr Fearne may be too far a departure from the current winning electoral formula which has handed the party successive electoral victories.  

Mr Fearne was cast in the national spotlight over concerns on appointments to the Foundation for Medical Services. A party activist and close advisor to Mr Fearne, Carmen Ciantar, was given a hefty financial package on her appointment as FMS chief executive.

Robert Abela

A lawyer by profession, the 42-year-old is currently a Labour backbencher and a legal consultant to outgoing-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.      

Son of President Emeritus and former Labour deputy leader George Abela, Dr Abela was first elected to Parliament in June 2017.  

Robert Abela.Robert Abela.

He is also married to Lydia Abela, who currently serves as executive secretary of the Labour Party.  

Dr Abela has emerged as having a slight edge over Mr Fearne with card holding members of the PL, but insiders say he trails behind when it comes to Labour delegates.  

He hit the headlines in the build up to the leadership race when he took to Facebook to say he was not ready to make “diabolical pacts” under the pretence of party unity.   

His backers claim Dr Abela had shot down a backroom deal that would have seen no race held and Mr Fearne automatically take over as prime minister. They claim the deal would have seen Transport Minister Ian Borg become deputy prime minister, with Dr Abela made minister and deputy leader of the PL.

Party insiders say Dr Abela is pitching himself as a reformer, who can offer a clean break form the current administration.  

He has been openly critical of the current administration in recent weeks, saying the PL needs “root and branch” reform.  

His detractors, meanwhile, raise questions over his lack of experience in senior political positions. 

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