Prime Minister Robert Abela last week tried to temper harsh internal criticism from his own electoral district, the Labour Party’s traditional stronghold of Cottonera, by giving disgruntled veteran MP Chris Agius a new position.
Transport Ministry said in a surprise announcement that former parliamentary secretary Chris Agius is to take the helm of Yachting Malta – a government organisation in partnership with the Royal Malta Racing Club.
For this new position, the Labour MP, who was excluded from cabinet by Robert Abela in 2022, will be earning another €6,000 on top of his remunerations for other political roles such as the €20,000 for chairing two parliamentary committees and his honorarium as an MP.
The former parliamentary secretary, known among his constituents as Il-Wefi, is not involved in the industry personally or professionally and, as such, the appointment came as a surprise for the yachting industry. It is being seen as another manoeuvre aimed at silencing his growing number of critics within the party.
Labour insiders told The Shift that Abela’s removal of Chris Agius from cabinet last year is now taking its toll on. He has apparently been facing increasing criticism from the veteran Cospicua MP and others from the district, including former minister Joe Mizzi.
“The way Abela eliminated his district ‘rivals’ has opened wounds, particularly among the victims,” one senior Labour source observed.
“To add insult to injury, Abela promoted his sister-in-law to cabinet despite her poor performance at the polls. This is just rubbing salt into the wound.”
After the 2022 election, Robert Abela made significant changes to the Second District from which he was elected.
Joe Mizzi, one of the longest-serving MPs from Cottonera was not returned to parliament, which is held to be a direct consequence of Abela having made him a backbencher in 2020. Chris Agius, who has been elected without fail since 1996, was also removed from cabinet.
Abela instead gave his sister-in-law Alison Zerafa Civelli, his wife’s sister, a cabinet post.
The move has left a bad taste in the mouths of Mizzi’s and Agius’ hundreds of constituents, mostly veteran Mintoffians who were already not seeing eye to eye with Abela’s lack of Socialist principles and policies.
According to the latest polls, Abela is losing popularity fast – particularly among those more traditional Labour voters.