The fall of the ‘Blue Heroes’: electorate punishes Nationalist MP rebels

What happened to the 17 Blue Heroes who wanted Adrian Delia out? We take a look at how they performed in the 2022 election

The 17 Blue Heroes: Jason Azzopardi had outed the rebellion he formed part of at the start of 2020
The 17 Blue Heroes: Jason Azzopardi had outed the rebellion he formed part of at the start of 2020

Few of the 17 ‘Blue Heroes’ who wanted Adrian Delia to step down as Nationalist Party leader actually got elected to parliament in this election and those that did, performed poorly.

Back in 2020 a MaltaToday survey that showed the PN performing dismally in the polls, prompted 17 members of the PN parliamentary group to make public their discontent with the party leadership at the time.

They penned an unsigned statement asking Delia to step down but it was none other than Jason Azzopardi, who outed the group he also formed part of, and annointed them 17 Blue Heroes in a Facebook post.

The MPs were: Claudette Buttigieg, Kevin Cutajar, Karl Gouder, Therese Comodini Cachia, Mario de Marco, Toni Bezzina, Marthese Portelli, Karol Aquilina, Roberta Metsola, Claudio Grech, Ryan Callus, Beppe Fenech Adami, Simon Busuttil, Chris Said, Stephen Spiteri, Jason Azzopardi and David Casa.

Stephen Spiteri had eventually distanced himself from the tag and said he wanted no part in ousting Adrian Delia. He was the only candidate to retain his 2017 success and improve on it by getting elected on two districts - the 2nd District, his traditional stronghold, and the 3rd District.

The biggest surprise of the night on Saturday was the fact that Jason Azzopardi failed to get elected on either the 4th District or the 9th. Azzopardi lost his seat on the 4th District to former PN president Mark Anthony Sammut.

Another clamorous elimination was Karol Aquilina, who failed to get elected on either the 9th and 10th districts. In both districts, the star performer was Joe Giglio. Aquilina received only 403 first-preference votes on the 9th District and ended his run on the 18th count with 530 votes. He saw far more support on the 10th District, but was again overshadowed by Giglio and Robert Arrigo. He made it to the final count with 2,367, over 1,000 votes less than the quota but was not elected.

It is very likely that both Azzopardi and Aquilina will be elected in casual elections that are expected to take place on the 9th and 10th districts.

Claudette Buttigieg failed to get elected on the 12th District, receiving only 1,292 first-count votes and 1,638 votes by the 16th count, less than half the quota of votes needed. Her performance faltered significantly in Gozo, the 13th District, having only garned 609 votes on the first count and 1,303 votes in total by the 14th count. The quota on this district was 4,393.

Kevin Cutajar joined Claudette Buttigieg on the 13th District but fared significantly better. Cutajar is from Gozo, and was no stranger to politics. He was a PN veteran on the Xagħra local council, re-elected across three terms, ran for the MEP elections in 2014, and was eventually co-opted into parliament. However, Cutajar fell short of the quota and ended up receiving 3,119 votes by the final count.

But Gozo also saw Chris Said lose the top spot among PN candidates, despite still getting elected. Said, like other oldcomers, was overshadowed by new entrant, Alex Borg. Borg was the first PN candidate to reach the quota with an impressive 6,108 votes. Said only received 2,772 votes on the first count, while in 2017 he was the one to hit the quota first-count with 4,642 votes.

On the 9th District Karl Gouder suffered an abysmal first-count result, gaining only 122 votes. By the 10th count, and his final one, he only received 160 votes. He fared only slightly better on the 10th District, receiving 284 first-count votes, and 374 by his final 15th count.

Mario de Marco was the PN front-runner on the first district although his first count tally was slashed by half. He received 2,253 first-preference votes and secured the quota at the 20th count. In 2017, de Marco had received 4,721 fist preferences.

On the fifth district, Toni Bezzina fared well but fell short of the quota by some 550 votes. His performance was conditioned by the fact that leader Bernard Grech contested the district. Bezzina started off with 762 votes, with the Nationalist supporters placing all their first-preferences on leader Bernard Grech, and finished the last count with 3,251 votes. The quota on the district was 3,799 but the PN lost a seat to Labour which shut out Bezzina. He has since been elected through the proportionality mechanism.

Ryan Callus was one of the few who made it to parliament and got elected on two districts. However, on the 6th District he was eclipsed by newcomer Jerome Caruana Cilia, who took all the limelight with a whopping 4,662 first-count votes. Callus received just over half this amount in the first count. He reached the quota on the 15th count, and was elected into parliament. He faced more competition on the seventh district but nonetheless managed to get elected on the last count. On the 7th District Callus was eclipsed on the first count by Adrian Delia, Ian Vassallo and Rebekah Cilia.

Beppe Fenech Adami was successful on the 8th District, receiving the second-highest amount of first-preference votes behind Labour’s Clyde Caruana. Interestingly, Fenech Adami reached the quota together with his counterparts Adrian Delia and newcomer Justin Schembri. From all three of them, it was Justin Schembri who reached the quota with the higher vote count.

Regardless, this is a far cry to Fenech Adami’s 2017 standing. In the last election he secured the quota on the first count with a whopping 6,484 votes. This time round he only received 2,617 first-count votes, and failed to reach the quota before the 24th count.

The rest of the Blue Heroes were Marthese Portelli, who resigned from parliament shortly after Jason Azzopardi published the post, Therese Comodini Cachia and Claudio Grech, who did not contest the election; David Casa and Roberta Metsola, who remain MEPs; and Simon Busuttil who is the secretary-general of the EPP Group in the European Parliament.