Robert Arrigo forced to vacate 10th district seat despite objections

The decision by the PN executive council to vacate the seat won by Robert Arrigo on the 10th district must have been part of the party’s ‘strategy’, the MP claimed, especially since he had asked to concede the seat won on the ninth district

Robert Arrigo (centre). Photo: Ray Attard
Robert Arrigo (centre). Photo: Ray Attard

With 55 votes to 21, the executive council of the Nationalist Party voted to ignore a request by its third most-voted candidate – Robert Arrigo – and vacated the seat he won on the 10th district and not the one on the ninth.

Arrigo was elected to the 10th district (Sliema, St Julian’s, Gzira and parts of Naxxar) with 4,793 first-count votes, and on the ninth (Swieqi, Gharghur, San Gwann, Ta’ Xbiex and Msida) with 2,099 votes.

The PN MP told MaltaToday that – like all candidates who were elected on more than one district – he addressed the executive on Monday evening and told them clearly he would prefer to vacate his ninth district seat.

“But with 55 votes to 22, the executive decided otherwise – that I vacate my seat on the tenth district,” he said. “This was obviously part of an overall strategy the party has.”

Arrigo said he had asked that his ninth district seat be vacated because he had been elected on the first count on the 10th with a wide margin and because in the past two elections – when he was also elected on the two districts – he had always vacated the seat won on the ninth district.

“I have no animosity and no hard feelings, but I must reassure all those people who chose me on the tenth district that I am not going to abandon them or the district,” he said. “In fact, my office in the district was already open last week and will remain so.”

Arrigo told MaltaToday that, even as the PN candidate with the third highest number of votes registered in the election, he still had no say and no vote in the party’s decision on which seats to vacate for the casual elections.

He would not comment as to why he thought the executive had ignored his request, or if all the candidates who had to give up a seat were treated equally.

Prior to Monday’s executive council meeting, rumours were circulating that deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami was lobbying to retain his seat on the eighth district and vacate the one on the seventh, on the grounds that his family was synonymous with the eighth district.

The executive council decided on Monday that Fenech Adami’s seat on the seventh district be vacated.

Arrigo would not be drawn into any possible internal politicking within the PN and to what the party’s overall strategy was, but he confirmed that he had always been, and would continue to be, a representative for both the ninth and 10th districts.

Casual elections hopefuls

It will be a hard-fought battle for former Nationalist minister George Pullicino, who despite standing a good chance of returning to parliament, still has to battle Graziella Attard Previ – a strong favourite to inherit Robert Arrigo’s votes. 

Pullicino, who contested the 2017 general election on the 10th district, garnered 1,088 first preference votes. However, Attard Previ is expected to get a strong number of votes once Arrigo’s are distributed in the upcoming casual elections.

The district, a PN stronghold, saw PN candidates Robert Arrigo and Karl Gouder and PD leader Marlene Farrugia securing their seats in parliament. 

A seat is given up when a candidate is elected from more than one district. On Monday evening, by means of a secret vote, the 76 members of the party’s executive present voted on which seats were to be given up by PN leader Simon Busuttil, deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami, Robert Arrigo, David Agius and Marthese Portelli. 

The executive decided that Agius and Busuttil should give up their seats on District 11; Fenech Adami will be giving up his seat on District 7 while Portelli is giving up her seat on District 13. 

The executive’s decision means that Arrigo – who proved to be the PN’s most popular candidate on District 10 with 4,793 first preference votes – will be forced to forfeit his seat, giving Pullicino and Attard Previ a hard-fought battle. 

In 2013, the executive had opted for Pullicino to give up the seat when both Arrigo and Pullicino were elected from District 10. In 2008, Arrigo ceded his seat on District 9; and he was elected on the tenth district in 2003. 

But the PN executive committee’s decision not to open the votes on District 9, even though it was possible, was not taken kindly to. 

PN candidate Ivan Bartolo took to Facebook to express his regret at the decision: “My short career in politics comes to an end today. The executive members of the PN decided to vote to keep the ninth district closed. I thank all those who believed in a fresh look, in a new beginning and in new progressive positive ideas. Politics is no longer on my radar.” 

On the seventh district, the battle is between Antoine Borg and Sam Abela… followed closely by Godfrey Farrugia. 

The availability of two seats on the 11th district means Mosta mayor Ivan Bartolo (not the Ivan Barolo of the ninth district) and PN treasurer Alex Perici Calascione will likely be elected to the House. 

Finally, on the thirteenth district, Kevin Cutajar and David Stellini stand the strongest chance of being elected.