With the Labour Party beginning to roll out its chosen candidates for next June’s MEP elections, MEP Cyrus Engerer would not confirm his candidacy when contacted by The Shift.
Labour Party insiders have meanwhile told The Shift that Engerer is telling his aides that he might not contest because he feels he does not have the necessary backing from the party, in particular from Prime Minister Robert Abela.
Asked by The Shift to confirm whether he will be re-contesting his seat, Engerer was non-committal and only insisted that he “is currently focused on his work”.
Pressed for a reply given that many MEP candidates are already in full campaign mode, Engerer retorted that he does not reply to rumours and would not confirm his presence on the PL’s 2024 MEP ticket.
PL sources told The Shift that while Engerer is welcome to re-contest and the party would endorse his candidature if he decided to seek a second mandate, current internal polls show his chances of being returned to Brussels are slim.
“Engerer is not very popular among Labour voters and he was only elected last time through a casual election to replace Miriam Dalli,” PL sources observed.
“The stances he has taken recently, particularly in favour of abortion and openly challenging the Prime Minister – like on the issue of the jean Paul Sofia inquiry – don’t help his case,” they added.
In 2014, a year after the Labour Party was elected to power, Engerer was given a two-year jail sentence suspended for two years, for distributing pornographic material.
The newly-elected prime minister at the time, Joseph Muscat had endorsed him and called him a “suldat ta l-azzar” after the conviction, in an apparent repayment for Engerer having helped pull Nationalist voters toward the Labour Party in the electoral campaign.
The political circumstances in the 2024 elections will be very different from those held in 2019.
Recent polls show that Labour’s popularity is in decline. Six seats are available for Malta, although Labour loss will not necessarily be transferred to the PN as it faces its own difficulties with an uninspiring leader.
“A PL 4 – PN 2 MEPs result is now very difficult although not impossible. The election of three MEPs for the PL and three for the PN, particularly due to Labour absenteeism is more likely,” Party sources said.
Labour is also evidently pushing some candidates more than others.
Clint Flores, the husband of Labour veteran stalwart Ray Azzopardi who is very popular with the PL’s rank and file, is considered as one of Engerer’s main threats for re-election.
Green Project Head Steve Ellul, although still officially not a candidate, is backed by Minister Miriam Dalli and the power he was given by Robert Abela, handing him a government agency together with a substantial budget funded by taxpayers, which Ellul is not shying away from using in his favour.
The Shift has already reported how current MEPs Alex Agius Saliba, Josianne Cutajar and Engerer have already voiced their objections about Ellul and the way he is using public funds for his own benefit. It seems the prime minister has ignored them so far.
PL sources indicated that Gozitan MEP Josianne Cutajar may also be a casualty at the next elections as she has failed to leave her mark despite spending four years in Brussels. Yet she may still be able to garner most of the Gozitan vote, Labour sources said.
In 2019, Miriam Dalli and Alfred Sant garnered most of the PL vote.
Both will not be recontesting.