Clean-up campaigner Cami Appelgren beats her own party leader

The environmental activist known for clean-up campaigns trumped the leader of the Democratic Party in her first electoral run

Camilla Appelgren contested the European election with the Democratic Party
Camilla Appelgren contested the European election with the Democratic Party

Environmental campaigner Cami Appelgren, who became a household name thanks to her organisation of clean-ups emerged from Saturday’s election as the Democratic Party’s lead candidate.

The Swede obtained more than 3,000 votes on the first count, as opposed to PD leader Godfrey Farrugia, who clocked 1,668 first count votes.

However, it may not be a completely bad result for the PD despite gaining only 2% of the vote.

With 5,276 votes obtained on the first count, the PD appears to have improved slightly on the performance of its candidates in the 2017 general election.

In their first electoral showing two years ago, PD candidates had contested on the list of the Nationalist Party as part of the Forza Nazzjonali coalition. They collectively polled 4,826 votes.

The PD’s performance in the European election could suggest that it was the PN that had gained from the presence of PD candidates on its list in 2017, rather than the other way around.

However, Appelgren’s relative success has dampened Godfrey Farrugia’s leadership, which tends towards social conservativism.

Her result probably reflects an appreciation for a ‘can do’ approach to environmentalism and politics but Appelgren had been singled out by conservatives for expressing pro-choice views in the run-up to the election.

She had also objected to a party commitment in favour of the entrenchment of the abortion ban in the Constitution, entered into by Farrugia.  

Appelgren’s result could suggest that PD voters have indicated a clear preference for more socially liberal views.

This was the first election in which the PD’s electoral strength could be tested on its own merits. 

The party may have improved on the votes its obtained in 2017 but its strategy to attract PN voters disgruntled by Delia may have backfired.

This category of voters ultimately chose to abstain, vote for Arnold Cassola or still vote for PN candidates like Roberta Metsola and David Casa. 

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AD fails to capitalise on its core issue

Alternattiva Demokratika failed to leave a mark in these elections with its two candidates registering 1,866 votes.

The result reflects the party’s failure to register on the voters’ radar and significantly it failed to capitalise on growing concerns over environmental issues.

This suggests that voters may have found other outlets to vent their anger on these issues, through community based campaigns spearheaded by NGOs and resident networks.    

Yet, this discontentment was indeed partly captured by the PD’s Cami Appelgren and the independent candidature of Arnold Cassola, who received 2,500 votes.

Arnold Cassola contested as an independent candidate
Arnold Cassola contested as an independent candidate

Together, Appelgreen, Cassola, Carmel Cacopardo and Mina Tolu account for nearly 7,046 votes, which is very near AD’s result in the 2014 MEP elections.  

It may also be the case that core AD voters remained loyal to the party’s former leader and founder, who has contested every MEP election since 2004 when he was close to being elected.

AD’s progressive appeal may also be hitting a brick wall simply because Labour is perceived to be in a better position to deliver on these issues.

The party failed to send a striking message on any issue apart from environmental protection and a willingness to discuss abortion – an issue which cost it one of its candidates who went on to contest alone.

Moreover, even pro-choice voters may consider that Labour, although committed against the introduction of abortion, offers a more realistic prospect for such a debate to take place.

Truly, AD did not even offer a challenge in these elections focusing its very limited resources on local elections than on MEP elections held on the same day.

The results of the local elections may well give a better indication on the party’s future. 

Moderate/ Centre left vote in 2019 MEP election

Party % votes
Democratic Party 2
Arnold Cassola 0.8
Alternattiva Demokratika 0.7
Total 3.5