Casual elections: Parties strategize to fill up 13 remaining seats

Labour opens doors for Glenn Bedingfield’s casual election to Parliament, PN must decide whether to open door for radio tub-thumper David Thake  

Glenn Bedingfield (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Glenn Bedingfield (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

As the dust settles on the general election results, eyes are now turning to next week’s casual elections – with 13 seats still up for grabs as candidates elected on two districts are forced to give up one of their seats.

Labour’s executive convened on Saturday morning to make its strategic decisions on which seven seats to free up for casual elections.

Notably, it decided that civil liberties minister Helena Dalli should keep her seat on the 3rd district and abandon the 2nd – a move which paves the way for the Prime Minister’s aide Glenn Bedingfield to gain a seat in Parliament.

Bedingfield, who runs a controversial blog that targets critics of the Labour government, was eliminated on the 2nd district at the 25th count after receiving 1,345 votes. His closest competitor in the upcoming casual election will be former parliamentary secretary Stefan Buontempo, who was eliminated on the 21st count after receiving 619 votes.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will give up his seat on the fifth district, which will almost certainly lead to the election of former PL President Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, who only narrowly failed to get elected.

Health minister Chris Fearne has given up his stronghold of the fourth district, a move that will see either the return of medical doctor Etienne Grech or the election of lawyer Andy Ellul.

Qormi’s firebrand mayor Rosianne Cutajar, who was recently communications chief to former parliamentary secretary Deborah Schembri, is also set to be elected to Parliament, after Labour decided that parliamentary secretary Silvio Schembri give up his seat on the sixth district.

Former tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis and former digital economy minister Manuel Mallia are poised to return to Parliament as backbenchers after finance minister Edward Scicluna and social policy minister Michael Falzon gave up their seats on the 8th and 9th districts respectively.

Former planning parliamentary secretary Deborah Schembri is also favourite to retain her seat after education minister Evarist Bartolo gave up his seat on the 12th district, but she could yet be beaten to it by Mellieha deputy mayor Clayton Bartolo. 

PN choices: Two routes to the House for David Thake

With six of its seats up for grabs, the Nationalist Party will also need to make key strategic decisions, including whether to pave the way for the casual election of popular Radio 101 host David Thake.

Thake performed admirably in both districts he contested: he received 1,928 votes at the 21st count in the 8th district and 1,864 votes at the 28th count in the 12th district.

Thake will face off against St Paul’s Bay mayor Graziella Galea – who received 1,257 votes at the 2nd count – if outgoing PN leader Simon Busuttil abandons the 12th district in favour of the 11th one.  Should he opt to keep the 12th instead, he will likely pave the way for the election of Mosta mayor Ivan Bartolo. 

Thake will also likely be elected to Parliament if either outgoing PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami or former PN Whip David Agius gives up their seats on the 8th district. In the unlikely scenario that both of them give up this seat, then the second seat will be taken up by TV presenter Norman Vella or teacher Justin Schembri.

If Fenech Adami chooses instead to abandon the 7th district, then he will open a clear path for the re-election of accountant Antoine Borg. If David Agius abandons the 11th, then it will mean giving up his spot in favour of Mosta’s Ivan Bartolo. Should both Busuttil and Agius abandon the 11th, then former PN treasurer Alex Perici Calascione is likely to be elected to the House.

Another Ivan Bartolo – the founder of software company 6PM – is also likely to be elected to Parliament in the likely scenario that Robert Arrigo abandons his spot on the 9th district in favour of his stronghold in the 10th.

Marthese Portelli has a tough choice ahead of her – to stick with her traditional constituency of the 9th district or to focus on Gozo, the 13th district. If she follows Arrigo in ceding the 9th, then the seat will go to Swieqi mayor Noel Muscat, former MP Francis Zammit Dimech or St Julian’s deputy mayor Albert Buttigieg. Giving up Gozo will open the door for Kevin Cutajar, a lawyer and PN Xaghra councilor.