Updated 3.25pm

A parliamentary seat left vacant by the resignation of Labour MP Silvio Grixti will be filled by whoever the government wants, after no candidates submitted nominations for a casual election to replace him.   

In a brief statement on Friday, the electoral commission said no names to fill the third district seat were received by the end of the nomination period earlier on Friday. 

That stands in stark contrast to what happened when a seat became available in the district two years ago.

Back in December 2019, four candidates vied to fill a third district seat left empty by Helena Dalli's nomination to the European Commission. Jean-Claude Micallef won that contest, beating Edric Micallef, Sebastian Muscat and Mario Calleja. 

Two years later, none of those unsuccessful candidates has chosen to try and make it into parliament. 

Marsascala mayor to focus on locality 

Calleja, who according to the 2017 voting trends would have won the casual election, said when contacted on Friday that after weighing his options and discussing them with his family, he preferred focusing on the remaining three years of his mayorship.   

“I explained to Prime Minister Robert Abela that I prefer focusing on my locality and the remaining three years in the role of mayor than give it up to be in Parliament for a couple of months until the next general election is called. I believe I still have a lot more to offer my locality so I will focus my efforts here,” he said. 

He said he had already decided that, at 63, he will allow space to others and will not be contesting the forthcoming general election. 

Frontrunners in race to replace Grixti

Since no nominations were submitted, the government will now be able to replace Grixti by co-opting a person of its choice into parliament.

Times of Malta reported earlier this week that three names are being bandied about as frontrunners - Rebecca Buttigieg, Romilda Zarb and Andy Ellul.

Buttigieg, who serves as the spokesperson for Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri, is understood to be the prime minister's favoured candidate. 

Grixti resigned from parliament earlier in December after being interrogated by the police over an investigation into irregular medical sick notes. He was questioned by the police financial crimes investigation department and released on police bail, Times of Malta has been told. 

The government has made heavy use of co-options throughout this legislature, introducing new MPs who did not contest the previous election. 

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, Energy Minister Miriam Dalli and MPs Jonathan Attard and Oliver Scicluna were all co-opted into parliament by the Labour government this legislature. 

The Nationalist Party has also used resorted to co-options in this legislature, albeit to a lesser degree: Adrian Delia and Bernard Grech were both co-opted after being elected party leaders, with the party also co-opting Kevin Cutajar into parliament. 

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