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Outgoing Cabinet fares well at polls

Chris Fearne outshines colleagues

Most members of Joseph Muscat’s first Cabinet got healthy or, at least, respectable results at Saturday’s election when compared to their performance at the polls four years ago.

Still, an analysis by this newspaper, shows that some of Dr Muscat’s most visible heavyweights, particularly Labour deputy leader Chris Cardona and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, did quite badly, considering their high media profile during the election campaign.

Former tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis and former parliamentary secretary Deborah Schembri, known to have been close to Dr Muscat, failed to be elected.

Manuel Mallia, appointed minister twice during the past four-year legislature after he had been fired over a shooting incident involving his driver and being given another Cabinet job later, also failed to make it to Parliament.

Among those who were re-elected, Health Minister Chris Fearne overwhelmingly outshone his Cabinet colleagues.

Despite being a latecomer to the Cabinet, Mr Fearne spent most of the legislature in the shadows of his district rival, Konrad Mizzi, as his parliamentary secretary before succeeding him as health minister when the Prime Minister removed Dr Mizzi’s health and energy portfolios in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal.

Mr Fearne won 5,405 personal votes in this election on the fourth district alone, surpassing Dr Mizzi.

Young former parliamentary secretary Ian Borg also managed to improve his performance at the polls despite already being one of the highest vote catchers four years ago.

The former mayor of Dingli increased his personal votes by over 1,000, meaning accusations linked to a controversial development planning permit for his house in the limits of Rabat, which according to the Ombudsman was issued abusively, had left no negative effects on him at all.

Edward Scicluna, associated with the ‘economic miracle’ achieved by the Labour administration, upped his tally of votes on the eighth district, from where he had also been elected in 2013, by almost 1,500.

Former home affairs minister Carmelo Abela, who was elected on the 17th count in 2013, this time managed to better significantly his performance. He was yesterday named Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion.

On the other hand, the worst performer, compared to 2013, was Dr Bonnici who, despite having been given a Cabinet post from day one, saw his popularity in his district dwindle and almost halved the number of votes.

Overall, he lost almost 2,500 votes when compared to the last election.

Dr Cardona, who had his fair share of controversies in the previous legislature, also saw his popularity losing thrust despite going to the electorate as the Labour deputy leader.

He saw his vote count slashed by 658 votes in his stronghold of Birkirkara and was not even elected from the second district he contested.

Former Gozo Minister Anton Refalo, who no longer sits on the Cabinet, also lost votes but re-mained the most popular Labour candidate on the sister island.

Justyne Caruana succeeded him.

Former parliamentary secretary Stefan Buontempo not only lost his parliamentary seat but also about 1,500 votes when compared to his performance at the election in 2013.

Cabinet vote winners and losers

Member 2013 votes 2017 votes Difference
Josè Herrera 1,913 4,630 +2,717
Chris Agius* 1,409 2,014 +605
Carmelo Abela 1,859 2,892 +1,003
Helena Dalli 1,037 1,787 +750
Chris Fearne* 1,023 5,405 +4,382
Roderick Galdes 2,035 2,757 +722
Ian Borg 4,186 5,566 +1,380
Edward Scicluna 2,148 3,577 +1,492
Michael Falzon 1,892 2,093 +201
Michael Farrugia 2,475 3,560 +1,085
Edward Zammit Lewis 2,660 2,783 +123
Justyne Caruana 2,757 3,189 +432
Chris Cardona 3,876 3,218 -658
Konrad Mizzi* 5,265 4,968 -297
Owen Bonnici 4,316 1,858 -2,458
Stefan Buontempo 2,017 529 -1,488
Joe Mizzi* 4,346 3,814 -532
Manuel Mallia 2,950 1,882 -1,068
Evarist Bartolo** 5,287 5,176 -111
Deborah Schembri 1,613  2,331 +718
Anton Refalo 5,264 4,853 -411

NOTE: *At second count since Labour leader contested district

** Total votes on both districts contested.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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