Outside the mainstream: Who are the independent candidates vying for MEP?

Apart from third party contenders Alternattiva Demokratika and Partit Demokratiku, who are the independent candidates vying for a seat in Brussels?

Aiming high... Zaren tal-Ajkla on the campaign trail
Aiming high... Zaren tal-Ajkla on the campaign trail

Arnold Cassola

Arnold Cassola
Arnold Cassola

Definitely the most high-profile of the so called ‘independents’. Arnold Cassola was a long-standing politician and twice chairperson of the Maltese Green Party Alternattiva Demokratika before resigning this year over his party’s refusal to disassociate itself from comments from another candidate, Mina Tolu, who argued for a sane debate on abortion rights.

Apart from being a published academic of the Maltese language and literature, Prof. Cassola served as secretary-general of the European Greens in the years leading up to 2003, when he garnered over 24,000 votes in the 2004 election – coming in sixth. He was then elected to the Italian parliament, using his ancestral Italian nationality to run on a list of expatriates for the centre-left coalition led by Romano Prodi.

Politically, Cassola remains a vocal and level-headed section of the Maltese landscape of extra-parliamentary forces which campaign on the environment and social justice, placing him on the ecological centre-left of the spectrum.

Antoine Borg

Antoine Borg
Antoine Borg

Computing graduate Antoine Borg launched his candidate off his own blog – ‘Brain Not Ego’ – in which he dispenses his own personal solutions to complex problems of Maltese politics and political culture. Fashioning himself as a keen observer of human behaviour, in a blogpost on the outcome of the Egrant inquiry, he deduced that Joseph Muscat’s performance during his press conference had been a sham. “There are too many points which suggest that all isn’t as it seems. If someone you know thought the Prime Minister was being genuine, you have to ask yourself one simple question. Has this person been brainwashed? That’s what manipulation is all about.”

A resident of Prague, Borg spent the past eight years working in the European space programme Galileo as a technical support officer working on contracts for satellite security technology.

He believes in better European integration and the single European currency, and stronger borders but added burden-sharing and European intervention against smuggling gangs in North Africa, as well as sustainable development and ways of tackling income inequality in the growing service economy. Ideologically, he is likely a liberal and a centrist.

Mario Borg

On Mario Borg’s Facebook profile, his most recent livestreams have spoken in defence of Julian Assange, arrested by UK police for his extradition to Sweden, asking why the “mainstream media” is not asking questions about his arrest.

Dubbing himself a ‘Mintoffjan’, one of his Facebook photos has a flag of Israel planted instead of the George Cross on the Maltese flag, while another has the photo of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi. And then, another photo lampooning the European Union’s action on illegal immigration, claiming that the “EU’s sponsored betrayal is enforced by our parliament”. He rails against Maltese NGOs for supporting the rights of asylum seekers and berates them for ignoring Assange’s extradition, paying tribute to Wikileaks and Chelsea Manning.

At face value, despite his adulation of Labour’s patriarch and support for Democratic aspirant Tulsi Gabbard for US president (“she’s the only one speaking against war, against torture, against Assange’s arrest... but never mentions the Saudis and Israelis on 9/11”), Borg’s conspiratorial view of the Christchurch massacre as a false flag operation, Israeli interests, climate change, and euroscepticism, especially on migration, places him on an anti-liberal and anti-EU position that would find a natural home inside the hard right. He even shared a video by far-right and independent candidate Stephen Floriana, while the patriots’ Henry Battistino is wishing him luck for the campaign.

Stephen Florian

Stephen Florian at an MPM rally
Stephen Florian at an MPM rally

Stephen Florian is a lecturer at the Naxxar Higher Secondary.  He was involved in a controversy over transphobic statements he made against a young activist protesting a demonstration by the far-right patriots’ movement.

Unlike other members on the hard right, Florian is a better speaker, and better informed orator. His Facebook videos display a more graceful appreciation of facts than other candidates, offering a more sincere analysis albeit clearly on the hard right of politics.

Florian is a pro-life, anti-federalist candidate who naturally takes an anti-immigration stance. Formerly an activist with the patriots’ movement, he has expressed himself against the Gozo tunnel project and the uglification of Maltese village cores.

Educated in Moscow’s Russian Academy of Theatre Arts, Florian was formerly deputy leader of the Moviment Patriotti Maltin.

Moviment Patrijotti Maltin

Patriots on the march
Patriots on the march

Apart from fielding its candidates for the local councils, the far-right MPM will have Simon Borg and Naged Megally, a specialist gynaecologist and Coptic Christian who hails from Egypt, as their candidates. If there is a common trait it’s the tribute they pay to Dom Mintoff, particularly his emancipatory ‘Malta for the Maltese’ slogan. Shorn of its colonial context, it is just another MAGA war cry. Fiercely anti-immigration and anti-EU, Megally complains of Malta being “run by Brussels and that drunkard Juncker”, while Simon Borg recently posted a video on Facebook saying Malta’s electorate is now composed of a sizeable chunk of foreign voters.

Imperium Europa

Norman Lowell
Norman Lowell

No need of any introduction: ageing Nazi apologist Norman Lowell is the reference point for anti-immigrant and openly racist anger since 2004, a protest vote for Labour and Nationalist voters who are happy on the hard right of their parties. Thinks Malta is a spiritual base for the civilisational renewal of Europe.

Alleanza Bidla

Ivan Grech Mintoff
Ivan Grech Mintoff

The conservative outfit of Ivan Grech Mintoff has clear alignments: socially conservative, Eurosceptic and Christian democracy. It is formally aligned with the European Christian Political Movement, an alliance that includes right-wing parties like the Portuguese People’s Monarchist party and Poland’s Right Wing of the Republic, which, among other things, declare full support for the teaching of the Catholic Church and oppose abortion, euthanasia, same sex unions and IVF. The ECPM is aligned with the European of Conservatives and Reformists inside the European Parliament.

Grech Mintoff has been a vehement critic of the Labour government, at one point associating himself with an alleged Libyan whistleblower who has accused an employee of the Prime Minister’s office, Neville Gafà, of taking bribes on medical visas. He is running for MEP together with University academic Rebecca Dalli Gonzi.

Nazzareno Bonnici

Let the eagle soar... Zaren tal-Ajkla
Let the eagle soar... Zaren tal-Ajkla

Not quite Monster Raving Loony Party, but part of that long line of crackpot candidates who lighten the mood of any election: Zaren tal-Ajkla stands for little except for being a welcome distraction with his performances of song and disjointed speeches aimed at the establishment. A self-described former Labour voter, he once attracted thousands at a mass meeting in Zabbar in 2013, and garnered just over 1,000 votes (0.48%) in the 2014 European elections.

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