The governing Labour Party may lose another parliamentary seat next week as the frontrunner to fill in the vacancy created by former Finance Minister Edward Scicluna is Rabat’s former Labour Mayor Charles Azzopardi, who is now a registered PN life member.
This means that if Azzopardi makes it in next Tuesday’s casual election, in line with predictions, he may choose not to join Labour’s backbench and instead opt to either form part of the Opposition’s parliamentary group or join disgraced former Labour Minister Konrad Mizzi as an independent.
The Shift is informed that Azzopardi, disowned by Labour over allegations against him prior to the 2019 local council elections, has come under intense pressure from PL quarters to forgo his right to contest the casual election following the resignation of former Finance Minister Edward Scicluna.
Yet Azzopardi did not budge despite the direct intervention of Prime Minister Robert Abela and other senior Party officials who tried to convince the former Rabat mayor. No charges have ever been filed against him despite a police investigation into the claims related to corruption and mismanagement of funds at the council while he was mayor.
Azzopardi was offered ‘other options’ in order not to submit his nomination. Yet he turned them all down and was the first of three possible candidates to submit his nomination.
The other possible contenders are former PN MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando who turned Labour after being thrown out by the PN, and Gavin Gulia, a former Labour Minister who has been retained at the helm of the MTA despite various scandals.
Azzopardi earned more than 2,200 first count votes in the 2013 local council elections and became mayor. Yet he was not allowed to contest the 2019 local council elections because of corruption allegations. Although the Labour Party had said that Azzopardi was being investigated, no charges have ever been brought against him.
An anonymous report passed on to the PL with the allegations remains unpublished.
His disbarring from contesting the elections opened the door for Sandro Craus, a close aide of then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, to become mayor.
Latest political gaffe by Robert Abela
Labour insiders are blaming Prime Minister Robert Abela: “Seasoned politicians will consider all possibilities before taking important decisions such as ousting a Minister and creating a vacancy. It was obvious that Charles Azzopardi could take the seat when Robert Abela decided to remove Edward Scicluna and install his friend Clyde Caruana as Finance Minister”.
“These mistakes are done by those who lack political experience. If we lose this seat, it’s all Abela’s mess,” a PL official said.
Last November, during a Cabinet reshuffle done only 10 months after Abela had established his Cabinet, he removed Scicluna and placed his chief of staff, unelected MP Clyde Caruana, in his stead.
In the midst of controversy and corruption scandals that occurred on his watch, Scicluna was removed ahead of a Moneyval assessment and appointed Central Bank Governor.
While Scicluna was given a more lucrative package than he earned as finance minister, taxpayers had to carry a further cost as Mario Vella – a former PL president serving his last year as Central Bank Governor – was given a newly created job as Special Commissioner for Trade with the UK. The role is already covered by the foreign affairs ministry.