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Labour votes for general secretary today

The four contenders for the post of MLP general secretary (from left): Keith Grech, Jason Micallef, Alfred Grixti and Joe Vella Bonnici.

The four contenders for the post of MLP general secretary (from left): Keith Grech, Jason Micallef, Alfred Grixti and Joe Vella Bonnici.

Labour delegates will meet tonight at an extraordinary general conference to choose the party's general secretary from among four candidates.

They will also choose the rest of the party's administration, though that of general secretary will be the most hotly contested of the seven posts to be decided upon. The election for the 10 seats on the party's executive council will take place tomorrow.

One of the contenders for the job of general secretary is incumbent Jason Micallef who has held the post since November 2003, when he replaced Jimmy Magro.

There are four contenders for the hot seat: Mr Micallef, headmaster Alfred Grixti, economist Joe Vella Bonnici and former deputy general secretary Keith Grech, a former mayor of Ta' Xbiex and former St Paul's Bay councillor.

Originally, Gino Cauchi, former journalist and One TV sales and marketing manager, and Joe Chetcuti, a former election candidate, were also in the race but they withdrew their nominations late last week "out of loyalty to the party".

The party's administrative elections are usually held in January but were brought forward to August by the party's new leadership, which is seeking to start working as soon as possible with a new team.

The Sunday Times yesterday reported that Mr Vella Bonnici made huge gains in the tight race for this post, garnering more ground with party delegates, and saying how Mr Grixti's popularity among delegates improved in the last few days of the campaign.

It also reported on criticism levelled at Mr Micallef (see page 5).

MLP sources told The Times that lawyer Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi is expected to be confirmed as president. The other contender for the post is Wenzu Mintoff, the present education secretary and founder of Alternattiva Demokratika.

The post of education secretary is being contested by Anthony Degiovanni, a veteran party activist and a former Fgura mayor, and Aaron Farrugia, a Labour youth activist who was extensively involved in the Joseph Muscat leadership campaign. Mr Farrugia seems to be the favourite.

The election for the other posts, including that of vice-president, financial secretary and international secretary is not as straightforward, according to the sources who spoke to this newspaper.

Louis Gatt, the present vice-president, enjoys widespread support, but contender Alexander Sciberras, who has been Msida mayor since 2006, is banking on his closeness to the party leader to get elected.

In the race for financial secretary, a rather new name on the list is Jeffrey Camilleri who seems to be battling it out with Gozitan candidate Joe Cordina for the post. According to the sources incumbent Tommy Dimech seems to have lost a lot of the support he used to enjoy.

The post of international secretary is also not so clear-cut with incumbent Joe Mifsud standing against former Foreign Affairs Minister Alex Sciberras Trigona.

As opposed to the election for party leadership, where a candidate has to win an absolute majority, or 50 per cent plus one of the votes, to be elected, the election for the post of general secretary and the rest of the administration posts is decided on the basis of which candidate garners the highest number of votes.

In 2003 Mr Micallef was elected general secretary with 271 of the 862 valid votes cast by party delegates - 31.4 per cent. Mr Grixti, the runner-up, obtained 252 votes (29.3 per cent). They will be facing each other for a second time tonight.

The online poll conducted by timesofmalta.com has put Mr Grixti ahead with 58.2 per cent of the votes, followed by Mr Vella Bonnici with 19.6 per cent. Mr Micallef is placed third with 16.4 per cent and Dr Grech was selected by 5.7 per cent of respondents.

The four contenders

Keith Grech
A lawyer by profession, Dr Grech also contested for the post of general secretary in 2003, when Mr Micallef was elected to office. He won 33 of the 862 votes cast. Dr Grech has been active within the party for a number of years.

Jason Micallef
Mr Micallef is one of the youngest people to have held the post of MLP general secretary; he was 32 when elected in 2003. He was also a member of the party's executive and district secretary. Formerly an employee at Public Broadcasting Services Ltd, the operators of the national television station, Mr Micallef is credited with having introduced several changes within the party since he took over in 2003.

Alfred Grixti
Mr Grixti, who holds degrees from the Universities of Malta and Oxford, is headmaster of the Emanuel Debono Decesare Primary School in Fgura and is the deputy mayor of Żebbuġ, Malta. During the 1996-1998 Labour Administration he was deputy chairman of the Employment and Training Corporation and advisor to the then Social Policy Minister. He lectures on industrial relations at the university. On the political front Mr Grixti has been active in the MLP for 27 years, holding several posts within the party. He is a columnist with the General Workers' Union daily newspaper l-orizzont and serves as an editorial consultant to maltastar.com, the party's news portal. He is promising politics of substance if elected.

Joe Vella Bonnici
Mr Vella Bonnici is an economist and management consultant. He has been active within the MLP for several years and contested several general elections on the MLP ticket. He has run this race with the slogan Unity, Enthusiasm, Seriousness. Throughout his campaign he argued that the MLP had to be strong to be capable of administering the country. He promised he would strive to give the administration's full support to everyone who wanted to help the party.

Past MLP general secretaries

1980-1982 Dominic Fenech. (Dr Fenech had served as administrative secretary since 1977 but the titled was changed to general secretary in 1980.)

1982-1991 Marie Louise Coleiro.

1992-2003 Jimmy Magro.

2003-2008 Jason Micallef.

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