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Three ministers eye Labour Party deputy leadership

Scicluna, Dalli and Fearne all hoping to become deputy PM

From left: Edward Scicluna, Helena Dalli and Chris Fearne.

From left: Edward Scicluna, Helena Dalli and Chris Fearne.

Ministers Chris Fearne, Edward Scicluna and Helena Dalli have their eye on the post of Labour’s deputy leader for parliamentary affairs, The Sunday Times of Malta has learnt, with the successful candidate going on to become Deputy Prime Minster.

The post, vacated by Louis Grech after he quit politics on turning 70, may now be more attractive since it could present a route to becoming Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s eventual successor. After being re-elected earlier this month, Dr Muscat declared that the Labour Party will contest the next election with a new leader.

Party insiders told this newspaper that Mr Fearne, Dr Dalli and Prof. Scicluna have been taking internal soundings among party delegates on their chances of replacing Dr Grech.

Asked to confirm their interest, Prof. Scicluna replied that he will be running for the post, Mr Fearne said that he was discussing the possibility internally, while Dr Dalli did not reply to questions from this newspaper. 

All three of them performed very well in their respective districts

A party official said: “All three of them performed very well in their respective districts and all of them have shown that they are very popular with the Labour electorate.

“It seems that Mr Fearne will start in pole position as he is considered to be a no-nonsense person who can also appeal to moderate PN voters as Dr Muscat did,” he said.

“Since Dr Muscat made it clear that he will not see out his full term, the person elected deputy leader now will obviously be at an advantage to become Prime Minister before the next election.”

Winning 10,098 first count votes on two districts, Mr Fearne was the second most popular Labour candidate after Dr Muscat.

Prof. Scicluna, 70, might be considered an interim solution if the party opts to avoid an internal clash on Dr Muscat’s successor at such an early stage of its second term.

“Prof. Scicluna is considered mature and at his age he doesn’t have the ambitions to become Prime Minster. He might be the ideal stop gap,” another party delegate said.

MEP Miriam Dalli is also rumoured to have leadership ambitions. Photo: Jason BorgMEP Miriam Dalli is also rumoured to have leadership ambitions. Photo: Jason Borg

It is also a known secret within Labour that MEP Miriam Dalli also has ambitions to succeed Dr Muscat. However, a contest at this stage and the fact that she is not an MP in Malta is considered to be a big disadvantage for her, at least for now. She will, nevertheless, be hoping to perform very well at the next European elections in 2019 as this could coincide with Dr Muscat’s departure.

Party sources do not exclude the possibility that Dr Muscat will nominate himself as the next European Commissioner to succeed Karmenu Vella. The Maltese government is expected to make its final nomination soon after the 2019 MEP elections due in May 2019.

Another Labour Party high-flyer, Ian Borg, ruled himself out of the deputy leadership race during an interview on Times Talk. The 31-year-old, who has been promoted to the post of Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, said: “I’ve got enough responsibility,” when asked if he was interested in the post.

When asked, however, whether he fancied himself in Castille at some point in the future, Dr Borg replied:  “I’ve got five years of work ahead of me, and I intend to live my political life day-by-day.” 

Nominations for the post of Labour Party deputy leader will be submitted between Tuesday, June 20 and Thursday, June 22. Voting will take place during the party’s extraordinary general conference on July 13 and 14.

If there are more than two candidates and no one candidate receives 50 per cent +1 of the votes,  a run-off election will he held between the top two candidates on July 15.

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