After his successful European foray, Cassola says time is ripe for new party

13,000 first-count votes for green, independent politico Arnold Cassola could be the seed for a new, big-tent party of centrists, leftists and greens. And what about abortion? Cassola says activists will have freedom of conscience on contentious moral issues

Arnold Cassola
Arnold Cassola

Independent politician Arnold Cassola is not waffling about his political intentions, hinting that works are in progress for the creation of a new political force after the former green politico secured 13,000 firt count votes in the European elections.

“I am suggesting that time is ripe for a centre-left-green formation to enter the political arena,” Cassola said when interviewed by MaltaToday, taking pride in the diversity of people who supported him over the past weeks.

Now he believes this team of enthusiastic volunteers could be the basis of the new party. “People from all walks of life: youth, people in business, artists, young owners of start-ups, athletes, academics, the man and woman in the street, all fired with hope for a better future for the country… And yes, all these people could be the embryonic basis of a new formation.”

One of the reasons for Cassola’s impressive campaign was that he made people dream that his election to the European Parliament was possible. By the 34th count, at his elimination, Cassola had by then accumulated 22,941 votes – just 2,000 less than Labour’s third elected MEP, Thomas Bajada, who was elected without reaching the quota.

But Cassola is not worried that his voters might end up demoralised by his near-miss, almosyt a repeat 20 years later after garnening 23,000 votes back in 2004 (Malta then elected five MEPs, not six). “Indeed, the opposite is happening. People are elated at this best result for an independent candidate in 103 years, and more are joining the numerous people who have contributed to the campaign,” he said.

Arnold Cassola (centre) at the Naxxar Counting Hall on Sunday (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Arnold Cassola (centre) at the Naxxar Counting Hall on Sunday (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

But Cassola has been consistently against the introduction of abortion, an issued that prompted his departure from Green party Alternattiva Demokratika (now ADPD) in 2019. Will his intransigence on reproductive rights stand in the way of cooperating with others who favour the complete decriminalisation of abortion?

Cassola has already found a way out of this quandary. “I believe that members of this eventual formation, whilst acting in unison on other issues, should be given a free vote on matters of conscience,” he says.

For Cassola, Robert Abela’s declaration on Monday that the country needs a discussion on ‘taboo’ issues like abortion and euthanasia is a diversionary tactic. “We cannot continue allowing Abela to use these issues to divide us whilst he destroys what was built by our forefathers,” he says. “We can no longer be distracted by Robert Abela’s abortion-euthansia diversion from the other big problems in the country.”

In the face of what he scorns as divide-and-rule politics, Cassola says his new party will represent “unity of intent on our part as opposed to the proposed Abela carrots meant to distract from the serious problems of the country.”

Cassola was not the only independent in the race, but only former Labour mayor Conrad Borg Manché surpassed the 5,000 mark in this crowded field. Best known for his firm stance against subservience to business interests, particularly in a case involving the transfer of public garden space for the development of a petrol station, during the campaign this ‘socialist’ rebel turned out to be vociferous in morally conservative positions, declaring his allegiance to the right-wing European Conservative and Reformist Group.

So is there a place for Manche in the new party? Cassola is diplomatic in his reply affirming an open door policy, but only for all those who agree with the basic principles of the new party. “The centre-green-left formation would have as its priorities the quality of life of the citizen, the protection of the environment, the enhancement of the social dimension and the respect of human rights. Anybody who fits the bill is most welcome.”

In the aftermath of the 2003 EU referendum in which he had emerged as one of the protagonists of the Yes campaign, Cassola was mostly popular with green and pale-blue voters but enjoyed little sympathy amongst Labour voters.

But Cassola believes that attitudes towards him are changing. “For a couple of years now I have been fed many stories for my Facebook pages even by staunch Labourites who view the Muscat-Abela leadership as the coffin of social-democratic ideals.”

Cassola says that Labour local councillors, one mayor and even an MP had contacted him, saying they had rooted for him in the election. “And this never happened in any previous election.”

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

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