Parties’ backroom deal on local councils association election dubbed ‘dangerous precedent’

No love lost: Jason Azzopardi levels another dig at PN leader over council association elections 

Matthew Vella
30 September 2017, 9:08am
Salesman and dealmaker… Joseph Muscat and Adrian Delia have already agreed on not to hold a democratic election
Salesman and dealmaker… Joseph Muscat and Adrian Delia have already agreed on not to hold a democratic election
The leaders of the Labour and the Nationalist Party have agreed not to field any candidates for the elections of the Association of Local Councils – a “backroom” deal to field enough candidates for the ALC committee without being contested.

Labour will now retain its one-seat majority with five members.

MPs who spoke to this newspaper met the news with consternation, saying both party administrations had dissuaded local councillors from putting forward their names.

The Times reported that the issue was also raised at last Tuesday’s meeting between Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and new Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia.

The election of the nine members of the ALC executive was scheduled for October 14. At the end of the three-day nomination period ended on Friday, the candidates were uncontested.

The executive committee is composed of a chairman, three members and five officials representing the south-east, south, centre, north and Gozo regions.

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi likened the political deal between the Nationalist and Labour parties on the composition of the local government association to match-fixing.

The Nationalist MP, who has not held back on criticism of the PN’s new leader after having supported Chris Said, said this morning he was “averse to backroom deals”.

“Dangerous precedent. I’m averse to backroom deals between “adversaries”. In sports terms, agreeing beforehand on a pre arranged outcome of a game is illegal,” he wrote on his Facebook wall in reaction to a story appearing in the Times of Malta.

Azzopardi’s jibe was a direct reference to Adrian Delia’s recent past as a football club president before joining the political fray.

Local councillors who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity echoed Azzopardi’s sentiment. “The sentiment, they said, was especially palpable among councillors in both parties who were keen to contest the election but could not do so because of instructions coming from the higher echelons in view of the deal.”

The Nationalist Party had presented the automatic minimum of candidates in four localities for the local council elections of 10 March, 2012 in a bid to have all candidates elected automatically without the need of an election.

The same tactic was employed in 2005 when the PN actually withdrew candidates for the Marsa and Zejtun councils, leading to no election being held for the two councils.

Back in February 2005, the PN withdrew candidates Matthew Frendo, Manwel Saliba, Lawrence Grixti and Joseph Brownrigg on the last day of the nominations, meaning no elections would be held in the two Labour majorities of Marsa and Zejtun.
No competitive election need be held when the number of candidates equals the number of seats to be filled. The PN manoeuvre of withdrawing some of their candidates resulted in a Marsa council of six Labour and one PN councillor while Zejtun’s council would comprise eight Labour members and one PN councillor.

Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.