PN retains fewer MPs than Labour since 2008

A comparative analysis of MPs elected since 2008 shows that the PN has retained fewer MPs than Labour since it last won an election

The front bench of the Nationalist Party
The front bench of the Nationalist Party

One of the accusations which is often levelled at the Nationalist Party is that it has failed to regenerate itself, especially its parliamentary group. 

However, a comparative analysis of MPs elected since 2008 shows that the PN has retained fewer MPs than Labour since it last won an election. Only 32% of the PN’s MPs elected in 2008 were re-elected in this year’s general election, while Labour has retained 44% of its MPs.

Of the 37 Nationalist MPs elected in 2008, 12 are still in Parliament while Labour has 16 sitting MPs who also served in the 2008-13 legislature.

The number of returning MPs can rise in this week’s casual elections, however both parties are set to elect a combination of new and old faces.

When compared to the 2013 election, the PN and Labour have more or less had the same turnover, with the PN keeping 58% of its MPs to Labour’s 56%.

The perception of Labour’s deeper regeneration derives from its success in grooming young and ambitious candidates, such as Ian Borg, Aaron Farrugia, Clifton Grima and Silvio Schembri, who came into Joseph Muscat’s ministerial cabinet instead of a number of old faces. 

Concurrently, over the same period of time Labour’s old guard has either retired or moved to pastures new. A number of veterans such as George Vella, Joe Debono Grech, Charles Mangion and Charles Buhagiar did not contest the 2017 election while other Labour stalwarts such as Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Karmenu Vella and Leo Brincat were nominated to new posts. 

On the other hand, the PN’s frontbench has failed to give the party a new impetus despite the inclusion of new faces by Simon Busuttil in the last legislature, such as Kristy Debono, Ryan Callus and Claudio Grech. 

In 2013, despite having elected a number of new MPs, Busuttil inherited  a number of PN veterans such as George Pullicino, Francis Zammit Dimech, Tonio Fenech and Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici who were heavily associated with the beleaguered Lawrence Gonzi administration.

Although most of the old guard was demoted from the frontbench, this made it difficult for Busuttil to break with the past. 

The Labour Parliamentary group at Girgenti
The Labour Parliamentary group at Girgenti

New faces

The new parliament will have at least 10 new faces, with Labour electing seven new MPs while the PN has three. However, this number is set to increase as both parties are expected to elect new faces in this week’s casual elections. 

The casual elections will see the election of 12 MPs, seven for Labour and five for the PN. 

In the past days, the two parties’ executive decided on which seats to free up for casual elections. 

Labour decided to relinquish the seat won on the second district by Helena Dalli, paving the way for the Prime Minister’s aide Glenn Bedingfield to gain a seat in Parliament.

Beddingfield would be a new addition, but Dalli’s seat could also go to former junior minister for local government Stefan Buontempo, who has an outside chance of being re-elected. 

Buontempo also stands an outside chance of getting elected on the fourth district, where health minister Chris Fearne has given up his seat after also being elected on the third district.

The favourites to fill in Fearne’s seat are former MP Etienne Grech or newcomer Andy Ellul. 

The seat vacated by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on the fifth district will almost certainly lead to the election of another new MP, former PL President Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, who only narrowly failed to get elected. 

Qormi’s firebrand mayor Rosianne Cutajar, is another potential new face as she starts as favourite to fill in the seat vacated by parliamentary secretary Silvio Schembri. 

Former tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis and former digital economy minister Manuel Mallia are poised to return to Parliament as backbenchers after finance minister Edward Scicluna and social policy minister Michael Falzon gave up their seats on the 8th and 9th districts respectively. 

Former planning parliamentary secretary Deborah Schembri is also favourite to retain her seat after education minister Evarist Bartolo gave up his seat on the 12th district, but she could yet be beaten to it by another up-and-coming politician, Clayton Bartolo. 

The five vacant PN seats could all be filled by new MPs with Mosta mayor Ivan Bartolo and outgoing PN treasurer Alex Perici Calscione in pole position to take up the two available seats on the eleventh district.

The PN’s parliamentary group will also welcome a new MP from Gozo as three newcomers: Kevin Cutajar, David Stellini and Maria Portelli, are seeking to fill in the seat vacated by Marthese Portelli. 

The remaining two seats will probably see the return of MPs who were elected in 2013. Antoine Borg is favourite to take the vacant seat on the seventh district but he must first beat Sam Abela, son of former junior minister Tony.

Controversially, the PN decided to vacate a seat on the tenth district, tossing a lifeline to veterans George Pullicino and Francis Zammit Dimech. However, they will be given a good run for their money by first-time candidate Graziella Attard Previ, while surgeon Nick Refalo – also a new candidate – stands an outside chance of causing an upset.