The man vying for Labour’s seat in parliament vacated by Edward Scicluna is a lifetime member of the Nationalist Party, Times of Malta can reveal.

Charles Azzopardi is the former mayor of Rabat and a popular candidate that Labour disowned and barred from contesting on its ticket in the 2019 local election. He has been a paid-up Nationalist Party member for a while and was even eligible to vote at that party’s latest leadership election.

Party sources said Azzopardi had joined the PN after being shovelled away by Labour to make space for the election of Sandro Craus as mayor of Rabat.

Azzopardi has defied Labour’s internal pressure not to contest for Scicluna’s parliamentary seat, with party sources saying he even ignored job offers and senior positions in the diplomatic corps if he did not contest the seventh district casual election.

Scicluna resigned last month and has been appointed governor of the Central Bank.

Azzopardi is so far the only person who has submitted his nomination. He is one of three Labour candidates who can contest the casual election.

The others are former PN MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, currently chair at the Malta Council for Science and Technology, and Malta Tourism Authority chairman Gavin Gulia.

Azzopardi is considered the front runner based on his performance in the election, obtaining 2,179 votes. But several inside the PL camp are seeing this as problematic due to concerns that he would not toe the party line.

Azzopardi was not allowed to contest the 2019 local elections as a PL candidate, with sources at the time citing concerns over his conduct when he was mayor.

Azzopardi had publicly opposed a proposed development on Saqqajja Hill back in 2018.

The casual election will be held next Tuesday and nominations are being accepted by the Electoral Commission until Saturday.

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