Jason Azzopardi has called it quits after over 34 years as a firebrand member of the Nationalist Party, ending his affiliation with the PN with the sort of combative statement that became his political trademark.
His activism within the party started at the age of 17, when he became a member of the PN’s section committee in his Paola hometown.
Azzopardi says then PN leader Eddie Fenech Adami had first asked him to contest the general election in 1996, while he was still a university student.
He made it to parliament two years later, and at 27 was Malta's youngest MP at the time.
During his early years as a parliamentarian, Azzopardi spent a stint as the PN’s international secretary, involving himself in various European delegations and summits prior to Malta’s accession to the EU in 2004.
He later moved on to chairing parliament’s foreign affairs committee, before making it to cabinet in 2008 as parliamentary secretary for lands.
During the same legislature, he was promoted by then prime minister Lawrence Gonzi to minister for competition and small business.
On the attack
Azzopardi's five-year stint in government ended in 2013, when Labour was elected in what was then a record landslide vote.
Far from being disheartened by his party’s defeat, Azzopardi set about going hell for leather against the Labour government’s every wrong.
From a shooting involving a minister’s driver to the Café Premier scandal, Azzopardi put himself at the forefront of calling out Labour wrongdoing in the early years.
Under PN leader Simon Busuttil, Azzopardi was given free rein to attack the government and act as a lightning rod for Labour’s counterattacks.
The Panama Papers scandal in 2016 saw Azzopardi again leading the charge in the calls for justice against then government officials Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
Azzopardi was entrusted by Busuttil with making the legal cases for magisterial inquiries into their actions, after the police failed to investigate.
Caruana Galizia lawyer
He would rise to further prominence in 2017, taking on the role of lawyer to the family of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, alongside fellow PN MP Therese Comodini Cachia.
That same year would also prove to be the beginning of his downfall, having failed to see eye-to-eye with new party leader Adrian Delia.
Delia’s election as party leader would again see Azzopardi at the forefront of a new battle, this time within his own party.
Azzopardi, together with a group of other MPs opposed to Delia’s leadership, eventually succeeded in deposing him in 2020.
Often mocked for his ‘holier-than thou’ attitude, Azzopardi fell foul of the PN’s ethics committee that same year over a gift he accepted from Yorgen Fenech’s uncle, Ray.
Azzopardi was gifted a stay at Tel Aviv’s Hilton by the hotel magnate, failing to declare the gift in his filings to parliament.
His time in government would also come under scrutiny, with a 2017 NAO report noting the lack of documentation found in a major land expropriation deal at Fekruna Bay which Azzopardi was responsible for prior in the days prior to the March 2013 election.
It was the second time the NAO had expressed concern about a deal Azzopardi was politically responsible for: in a 2016 report, the NAO flagged an "abject failure" by the government to get value for money in a deal concerning the former Lowenbrau brewery site in Qormi.
Bernard Grech’s leadership
Azzopardi was one of current PN leader Bernard Grech’s early backers to oust Delia.
The relationship would soon sour, with Grech growing increasingly frustrated with Azzopardi’s comments on social media.
Azzopardi and Delia continued to snipe at each other on Facebook, frustrating Grech’s attempts to portray an image of a united Nationalist Party.
Rather than go through with an implied threat to expel both MPs last year, Grech reached a compromise with the publication of a declaration signed by Delia and Azzopardi.
In it, Azzopardi backtracked on his claims that Delia was in Fenech’s pocket and that they had exchanged hundreds of messages.
The perception that Azzopardi had unfairly backstabbed Delia would stick, harming the former’s standing with diehard Nationalists.
March’s general election saw Azzopardi’s 24-year career as an MP unceremoniously end.
After also missing out on a seat in a casual election last month, Azzopardi claimed he had been deliberately isolated by the PN.
An offer by Bernard Grech to keep the party’s door open for Azzopardi was firmly shut on Monday, with the former MP tendering his resignation from the party.