The race to fill a vacant Labour Party seat in Parliament will be a three-person one between a former mayor and two former MPs, with nominations for the post having closed on Saturday at noon.
Ballots cast in the 2017 general election will be reopened and recounted on Tuesday until a winner is declared to fill the parliamentary seat vacated by former finance minister Edward Scicluna, who has been appointed governor of the Central Bank.
Former Rabat mayor Charles Azzopardi, who was outed as a Nationalist Party member, was until Friday the only candidate to have thrown his name into the hat.
However, Malta Tourism Authority chairman Gavin Gulia followed suit and submitted his nomination on Friday, while former PN MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando added his name to the electoral list on Saturday, the final day of nominations.
Azzopardi – who submitted his nomination mere minutes after the Electoral Commission announced it was open – is considered the front runner in Tuesday’s race.
He obtained 2,179 votes, the highest among the three, and has a high position on the alphabetical ballot sheet, which tends to favour candidates who do.
Gulia is reportedly the Labour leadership’s preferred candidate. He had garnered a final count of 1,569 votes.
Azzopardi was disowned by Labour and barred from contesting on its ticket in the 2019 local election. He has defied Labour’s internal pressure not to contest Scicluna’s parliamentary seat, with party sources saying he even ignored job offers and senior positions in the diplomatic corps in return for bowing out.
Sources said the same pressure has been applied on Pullicino Orlando, currently chair at the Malta Council for Science and Technology, but he denied the claim yesterday.
Rather, the Żebbuġ dentist said he had been encouraged to contest.
Times of Malta reported this week that Azzopardi is a lifetime member of the Nationalist Party and voted in the party’s leadership election in October.
Party sources said he had joined the PN after being cast aside by Labour to make way for the election of Sandro Craus as mayor of Rabat.
Other sources said that when he was barred from the 2019 local election it was over his conduct as a mayor. He had publicly opposed a proposed development on Saqqajja Hill in 2018.
Several inside the PL camp see Azzopardi’s nomination as problematic due to concerns that he may not toe the party line.
Meanwhile, the PN statute does not provide for a situation where one of its members is an MP with an opposing party.
It only says that a party member cannot be a member of any other political party.