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Sliema deputy mayor resigns from PN

Sliema deputy mayor Cyrus Engerer will now be an independent ­candidate at the council.

Sliema deputy mayor Cyrus Engerer will now be an independent ­candidate at the council.

Sliema’s deputy mayor Cyrus Engerer has resigned from the Nationalist Party and crossed over to Labour after Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi voted against divorce legislation in Parliament.

“The Nationalist Party persists in being conservative and my principles are in conflict with it. So I could not remain a member,” Mr Engerer said yesterday, barely 24 hours after asking for Dr Gonzi’s resignation on his Facebook page following the vote on the second reading of the Divorce Bill.

Mr Engerer, a gay activist and pro-divorce campaigner, said on Facebook Dr Gonzi no longer represented the Maltese people and “has committed political suicide” by going against the will of the majority.

This reaction contrasted with a speech he made at the PN general council a few weeks ago when he dealt with the international recession and how well Malta’s economy had performed: “Malta needed and still needs to have a Nationalist government with Lawrence Gonzi at the helm.”

The tide has shifted heavily since then with Mr Engerer defending his actions by saying that the PN was previously a coalition of conservative and liberals that had kept back on certain civil issues because of other priorities, such as EU membership. “Rather than progressing since becoming an EU member, the party had regressed,” Mr Engerer said.

In a statement circulated to the media, Mr Engerer said he submitted his resignation from the PN to general secretary Paul Borg Olivier.

“I resigned because I was disappointed with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi’s decision to vote against divorce in Parliament as had been decided by the people in a referendum. I feel that my principles and liberal and democratic values are in conflict with the practices that are persisting in the PN,” Mr Engerer said.

He also announced that after the resignation he had a meeting with Labour leader Joseph Muscat. Mr Engerer accepted to join “the progressive movement” led by Dr Muscat, which he said represented his principles and values.

In a one-sentence statement, the PN said it accepted Mr Engerer’s resignation and, while it did not agree with his reasons, because it respected diversity of thought within it, it respected Mr Engerer’s decision.

Mr Engerer said he would be an independent councillor in Sliema and would remain loyal to his constituents.

His defection from the PN means the party has lost its absolute majority in the Sliema council. The PN now has five councillors against Labour’s three and another three independent councillors, formerly belonging to the PN.

Mr Engerer’s decision led to a bevy of comments on Facebook with many supporting his decision and others criticising him for crossing over to Labour.

One of the comments posted on Facebook was that of PN administrative council president Pierre Portelli, who expressed regret at Mr Engerer’s decision.

“My dear friend Cyrus, you couldn’t live in a party where freedom of expression gives the possibility to MPs to vote by their beliefs as long as the will of the majority is respected but you’re OK to move to a party that did not – in total – respect the will of the majority in the EU referendum when all MLP MPs voted against the will of the people,” Mr Portelli wrote.

While wishing him luck, Mr Portelli said that, like pro-divorce campaigner Deborah Schembri – who has also accepted to be a candidate for the PL in the next election, Mr Engerer would try to “reinvent” himself within a party that shared 10 per cent of what he wished for but which stood for 90 per cent of what he always declared to be against.

“I’m sorry you took this path but I respect your decision. Good luck and keep in touch,” Mr Portelli wrote.

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