Robert Abela justifies co-option of Oliver Scicluna amid controversy over casual election

He shifted the narrative to Charles Azzopardi, calling the Nationalist Party's offer for him to join the Opposition "anti-democratic"

Photo: PL
Photo: PL

Prime Minister Robert Abela tried to shut down all criticisms of the Labour Party's co-option of Oliver Scicluna during a political activity this morning, instead shifting the narrative to Charles Azzopardi and the Nationalist Party's subsequent offer to have him join the Opposition.

Scicluna's co-option by the Labour Party has been shrouded in controversy. The co-option was the result of a futile casual election, which saw MTA chairman Gavin Gulia enter parliament as an MP, only to resign a minute into his maiden parliamentary speech. 

Among the contestants in the casual election was Charles Azzopardi. While Azzopardi contested the last general election on the Labour ticket, he was disowned by the party after allegations surfaced of corruption during his tenure as mayor.

It was then revealed that he voted in last year's Nationalist Party leadership election, and is in fact a life member of the party.

Opposition leader Bernard Grech said that Azzopardi is welcome to sit on the Opposition benches should he be rejected by the Labour Party if he wins the casual election.

“That is the most anti-democratic move - trying to pressure a new parliamentarian to change allegiance,” Robert Abela said.

The PM continued to nitpick at the Opposition’s past co-options, including that which allowed Bernard Grech to enter parliament when he was elected party leader last year.

“We have an Opposition leader that entered parliament through co-option, yet he says that what we did was antidemocratic,” he said in disbelief.

Abela remarked that no one from the Opposition went on to congratulate Oliver Scicluna, who was chosen to take Edward Scicluna’s place by the Labour Party’s parliamentary group.

The newly co-opted MP Oliver Scicluna gave a brief address during the same political activity. He admitted that he felt embarrassed when Gavin Gulia resigned from his MP seat, paving the way for his co-option, he thanked him for encouraging him to enter politics.

He then thanked Robert Abela for the opportunity to enter parliament. “Where I don’t agree with you, I will tell you,” he said.

Opposition leader 

During a separate political activity held today by the Nationalist Party, Bernard Grech lambasted Labour for comparing his co-option into parliament with their manoeuvre.

"Using the electoral system to put someone in parliament, have him take oath, and make him leave because they're in an agreement is an abuse of the democratic electoral system of our country," he said. 

In reference to his election and subsequent co-option into parliament, he said that it was a transparent process all throughout. 

"Everyone knew that someone who isn't an MP may be chosen as leader, and that a co-option might be needed. We carried out a transparent legal process, and we knew who would leave in order to make way for a new leader," he explained, going on to thank Ivan Bartolo for giving up his seat in favour of Grech when he was elected party leader.