The third electoral district has become increasingly red over the past few elections.
Made up of the seaside villages of Marsascala and Marsaxlokk, along with neighbouring Żejtun and Għaxaq, 70 per cent of voters here backed Labour in the last election.
This is almost as many as Labour’s main stronghold of the three cities (District 2), classifying it as another deep red electoral zone.
The PN, on the other hand, only managed to secure 29 per cent of the votes here.
In 2017, voters gave four of the five seats at stake to Labour. The current incumbents are Chris Fearne, Carmelo Abela, Jean Claude Micallef and Andy Ellul.
Micallef had not been elected in 2017 but entered the House in 2019 after he won a casual election to replace Helena Dalli when she headed off to Brussels to become Malta’s European Commissioner.
In 2017, Labour had also elected family doctor Silvio Grixti. However, he resigned in December after he was interrogated by the police as part of an investigation into fraudulent medical certificates.
He was replaced by Andy Ellul, who is contesting on this district again.
The PN, in 2017, only elected one MP from this district – party veteran Mario Galea. He will not be seeking re-election.
A nurse by profession, Galea had served as parliamentary secretary in the Lawrence Gonzi administration and his time in politics dates to when Eddie Fenech Adami was the country’s prime minister.
His shock announcement not to contest could potentially open the door for some fresh faces on the PN ticket.
What to look out for
Looking at the candidates on the Labour ticket, party insiders say Fearne is expected to scoop (ikaxkar) the largest body of red votes.
His stature as deputy prime minister who led the government’s efforts to manage the pandemic have made Fearne one of the party’s biggest ticket items and the headline act in this district.
Abela and Owen Bonnici are both cabinet members but that does not mean they will necessarily do so well in this district.
Party sources say Bonnici polls far stronger in the fifth district than the third. Abela is also losing some of his grip here, the sources say.
Labour’s election strategists say this district will see a spirited battle between Ellul, who has only had a few weeks in parliament but is being pushed as a pro-Robert Abela candidate, and Micallef and Alicia Bugeja Said.
Micallef had been an early vocal critic of controversial plans to develop a marina in the idyllic Marsascala Bay.
Robert Abela eventually announced he would be scrapping the plans when he addressed ‘Skalin’ earlier during the election race. Micallef was there that windy evening and was met with strong applause by residents who thanked him for putting their interests first.
Bugeja Said, the daughter of a fisherman, is a researcher i fishing and has extensive contacts within the fishing community of Marsaxlokk. A former director of fisheries, she will be hoping to net as many of their votes as possible.
Turning to the PN ticket, the most familiar name here is Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici.
The 62-year-old is the son of President Emeritus Ugo Mifsud Bonnici. He has been an MP since 1998.
Janice Chetcuti and Errol Cutajar are both lawyers within the same legal practice, something PN insiders say has made for a somewhat awkward campaign race.
Mary Muscat is a lawyer and a former police inspector who also had ambitions to lead the police force.
Main issues facing voters
According to surveys drawn up by the two main political parties, district three voters are mostly concerned with the upkeep of their hometowns.
As is the trend with other largely Labour districts, voters here are more likely to say they are not preoccupied by anything than in split or blue districts.
A closer look at what weighs on voters’ mind per locality shows that nearly two in three voters from Għaxaq say they do not have any major concerns on their mind.
Around one in five say the state of their locality is their main concern.
In Marsascala, a third say they have no particular worries, with the rest saying that upkeep and cleanliness are their leading concerns.
Marsaxlokk and Żejtun residents say they are mostly bothered by the state of their residential roads.
Alicia Bugeja Said
Edward Cassar Delia
Jean Claude Micallef
John Baptiste Camilleri
Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici
VOLT are not fielding candidates in this district.
Jesrit Angel Camilleri
Stevey Ellul Bonici