Robert Abela keeping cards to his chest as Labour co-options rest solely with him

The Labour Party has no statutory requirement for co-option candidates for parliament to be approved by its executive, allowing the Prime Minister freedom to choose whoever he wants

Robert Abela at a Labour Party activity in Balzan on Sunday: the Prime Minister is keeping the cards to himself as he mulls co-option choices
Robert Abela at a Labour Party activity in Balzan on Sunday: the Prime Minister is keeping the cards to himself as he mulls co-option choices

Robert Abela can co-opt whoever he wants to parliament since the Labour Party statute does not require any such decision to be brought before it.

The Prime Minister is said to be keeping his cards close to his chest as he mulls different options after the dual resignations of MPs Joseph Muscat and Etienne Grech created vacancies on the Labour bench, according to a party source.

“The party statute does not require the leader to consult or seek approval from the executive and so he can choose whoever he wants to fill the vacant parliamentary seats,” the source said.

Muscat resigned his parliamentary seat last week and Grech packed his bags yesterday, citing personal reasons for his departure from parliament.

A co-option to fill Muscat’s seat on the 2nd District was prompted after the only two remaining non-elected Labour candidates chose not to contest the casual election. Grech’s resignation on the 4th District automatically led to a co-option since the Fgura doctor had been elected through a casual election himself.

MEP Miriam Dalli is said to have accepted the Prime Minister’s offer to be co-opted and eventually included in Cabinet. However, no decision appears to have been taken on the second name yet.

On Wednesday, Labour candidate Andy Ellul, who lost out to Grech by a whisker in the 2017 casual election on the 4th District indicated on Facebook his “willingness to serve”.

Grazzi lil dawk kollha li fi ftit hin baghtuli numru ta' messaggi dwar il-fatt li issa hemm siggu nieqes fuq ir-raba'...

Posted by Andy Ellul on Wednesday, 14 October 2020

However, the rumour mill among Labour activists is having a field day with several names, mostly female, being bandied around as likely options to take Grech’s seat.

There is no legal timeframe by when the co-options have to happen and with the PL enjoying a comfortable parliamentary majority, Abela may bide his time.

An impending reshuffle

In Dalli’s case, co-option would lead to a Cabinet reshuffle, although its extent is unknown. With the budget to be delivered on Monday, it is unlikely Abela will steal his own thunder by going through with a reshuffle at this stage.

But his hand may be forced by potentially embarrassing WhatsApp exchanges with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech involving some members of Cabinet that could be exhibited during the compilation of evidence next week.

A government source told MaltaToday that Cabinet members were on edge in anticipation of Abela’s decisions that may see some of them lose their posts outright or have their portfolios truncated.