Sant wants to run for European Parliament
‘I am standing in the Labour party’s interest’
The former Labour Prime Minister Alfred Sant yesterday declared his interest to contest the 2014 Euro-Parliamentary elections, as he announced officially that he would not be standing for the general election.
In a letter to the party’s deputy leader Toni Abela, which was circulated to the press, Dr Sant, 64, said that, after consulting Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat, he had decided that in the party’s best interest he would not contest the coming general election.
“Instead, it is my intention to propose my candidature, in the interest of the Labour Party, for the forthcoming European Parliament elections to be held in 2014,” he added.
The publication of the letter marks a break from Dr Sant’s usual reticence to discuss party matters publicly ever since he resigned as leader in 2008.
When asked by The Sunday Times to confirm information that he was not planning to contest the general election in September, Dr Sant had said: “My decision regarding contesting the next election is still to be taken.
“It will be done in the best interests of the Labour Party.”
Questions sent yesterday by The Times about the motivation for his decision and the timing of the announcement remained unanswered at the time of writing, while attempts to contact him on the phone were unsuccessful.
The Labour Party appears to have been caught by surprise by the announcement, particularly the declaration that he intends to stand for the MEP elections. However, party sources dismissed the idea that this could in any way indicate a rift with the leadership.
“I feel Dr Sant probably felt that he was better off making this public himself rather than having it surface in the midst of an electoral campaign,” a party source said.
“He would have had to announce that he would not be contesting the general election. At that point you have two alternatives, end your political career or indicate your plans for the future,” he added.
The 64-year-old MP, who led the Labour Party between 1992 and 2008, became the face of the ‘No’ campaign against Malta’s EU accession favouring instead a partnership agreement with the Union.
One of the very first political acts of his 1996-1998 government was to freeze Malta’s application to the EU, which had been filed by the Nationalist Party in 1990.
Controversially, Dr Sant rejected the result of a 2003 referendum on EU membership in which 53.6 per cent voted yes and 46.4 per cent voted no.
Throughout the campaign, Dr Sant had insisted that the matter should be settled at a general election and advised supporters to vote no, abstain or spoil the ballot. On this basis, he later claimed that the yes camp had less than 48 per cent of registered voters and therefore that ‘partnership’ had won.
The news of Dr Sant’s prospective candidature was met with criticism from the Nationalist Party, which said that Joseph Muscat’s decision “to send Dr Sant to the European Parliament and speak on behalf of the Maltese people”, showed that the party was still euro-sceptic. “Muscat and Sant together led a fierce campaign against Malta’s membership of the European Union because they wanted Malta to stay out. When Malta voted in favour of membership, Muscat and Sant celebrated the victory for partnership,” the PN said in a statement.
It is no wonder that the PL did not convince the Party of European Socialists, to which it is affiliated, the PN said in reference to the fact that the PES largely voted against Malta’s Commissioner-designate Tonio Borg on Wednesday.