Updated 10.10pm with comments

Health Minister Chris Fearne is Labour's new deputy leader after narrowly beating Finance Minister Edward Scicluna in the run-off election on Saturday night. 

The two ministers were in the final round after Helena Dalli was eliminated last night. 

Mr Fearne obtained 367 votes (51 per cent) while Prof. Scicluna won 348 votes (49 per cent), just 19 short. There were no invalid votes. 

The three contenders for the post of deputy leader for parliamentary affairs – a role immediately makes the winner deputy prime minister – were all seen before the vote as having a strong chance.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat first announced the result via a tweet.

Earlier in the week party sources and insiders had said there was no clear favourite, insisting it was an open race.

In the first round of voting which closed on Friday night, Mr Fearne obtained the highest number of votes, 296, followed by Prof. Scicluna - 240. Dr Dalli obtained 199 votes.

A second round was held after no one candidate received 50 per cent plus one of the votes in the first vote.

Supporters of the health minister cheered when the outcome of the vote was known at the PL headquarters, before going on a carcade.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Fearne said he wanted to be close to the people and to party delegates to ensure that they were at the heart of party matters. He personally thanked Dr Muscat for encouraging him to run in the contest. 

The result had shown the party was a united one as it had been a tight race

"The result had shown the party was a united one as it had been a tight race."

Prof. Scicluna said it was a worthwhile experience which brought him closer to the party delegates. 

"It was worthwhile to learn what makes a delegate tick, what is on their mind and what their concerns are for the future of the party."

On Friday, a total 745 Labour Party delegates out of the eligible 756 also voted to elect a new deputy leader for parliamentary affairs to replace Louis Grech, who quit politics on turning 70.

Although he has no portfolio, Mr Grech has stayed on as an advisor to Dr Muscat and still attends Cabinet meetings.

Labour Party delegates also confirmed Dr Muscat as leader of the Labour Party on Friday evening with 733 votes in favour and seven against.

Deputy leader Chris Cardona was confirmed as deputy leader for party affairs with 639 votes in favour, and 87 against.

In a Facebook post, Nationalist Party leadership contender Chris Said wished Mr Fearne luck and said he was looking forward to prove wrong the Health Minister's assertion that Labour will be in power for 20 years.

The Labour Party’s extraordinary general council meeting, which was held for the vote, kicked-off on Thursday with Dr Muscat and MEP Miriam Dalli announcing plans for the party to significantly increase female representation among Labour Party candidates running in national elections.

While Dr Dalli and Prof. Scicluna had both categorically denied having any future leadership ambitions during a televised debate before the vote, Mr Fearne had carefully avoided definitely ruling out the option.

Standing behind podiums in a presidential-style set up, they answered questions put to them by journalists from TVM, MaltaToday and Union Print.

The common denominator between them was an unwavering expression of loyalty towards Joseph Muscat and his brand of politics, which according to Mr Fearne had transformed the party into a winning force.






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