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Farrugia, Abela elected MLP deputy leaders

Toni Abela and Anġlu Farrugia who were elected MLP deputy leaders yesterday evening. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Toni Abela and Anġlu Farrugia who were elected MLP deputy leaders yesterday evening. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Anġlu Farrugia and Toni Abela were predictably elected Labour's new deputy leaders last night after entering the runoff with a massive lead from Thursday.

Dr Farrugia, the deputy leader now in charge of parliamentary affairs, added 126 votes to the staggering 409 votes he had polled in the first round on Thursday, obtaining 535 votes or 64.6 per cent of the vote. Dr Abela, in charge of party affairs, polled 528 votes or 63.8 per cent yesterday - up 138 votes from Thursday.

The two beaten off contenders long rumoured to be the favoured ones, Chris Cardona and Gavin Gulia, polled 293 and 307 votes respectively.

Dr Farrugia, who in contrast to Dr Muscat's style of rapprochement is known for what he himself described on his website as "ferocious speeches", is said to have made significant headway on the strength of his allegations of vote-buying in the general election, tapping into the mood of delegates angry at Labour's loss of a third general election.

Labour sources say he pushed a two-pronged argument in his campaign: That a young leader like Joseph Muscat needed an experienced deputy leader like himself and that a "soft" leadership made up of Dr Muscat, Dr Cardona and potentially Dr Gulia was not enough to oppose the government.

Dr Abela, on the other hand, has been waging more of a low-key campaign which was clearly effective with the delegates.

The latter's position may actually become redundant before the next election as talk of institutional reform which does away with the second deputy leader has been going on for some time. The issue was even addressed in the report analysing Labour's electoral defeat, particularly in connection with the conflict and overlap that exists between the post of deputy leader for party affairs and the secretary general - which developed into an open rift between respective incumbents Michael Falzon and Jason Micallef.

One of the strengths of Dr Abela's campaign was apparently his idea to consult widely with delegates before coming up with an internal reform programme. He also stressed that as he is not an MP - and not aspiring to be one - he would be able to dedicate himself completely to the job. This was another issue raised by the defeat report, which pointed out that certain members of the administration were split between their personal campaigns and that of the party.

Shortly after the result was confirmed, Dr Farrugia thanked family, delegates and the electoral commission. He said he has full faith in the new party leader and wants to help him cause an internal earthquake in the Labour Party and another earthquake for the Nationalist Party.

Dr Abela spoke to as many persons as possible in the past month to understand what people wanted and said he is now ready to roll up his sleeves to work in the interest of the party and of Malta.

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