Alfred Sant 'was right' on political parties and council elections, PN MP says

Breaking with his party’s tradition, PN MP Ivan Bartolo says the former Labour leader was right at the time local councils started to oppose political party representation

PN MP Ivan Bartolo
PN MP Ivan Bartolo

When local councils were created more than two decades ago, the Labour Party was against political parties fielding candidates for local elections.

Then in Opposition, the Labour Party under Alfred Sant had initially refrained from contesting local elections, leaving the field wide open for independent candidates to contest.

Sant's position was supported by then archbishop Joseph Mercieca.

On the flipside, the Nationalist Party had always supported the notion of political parties fielding candidates with then leader Eddie Fenech Adami expressing regret at the position adopted by the archbishop.

In the aftermath of the 1998 general election, the PL changed its stance and started to field candidates as well in a bid to restore political balance at local level.

But now, in a break with his party’s tradition, PN MP Ivan Bartolo said Alfred Sant “was right” on his stand against political party participation.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate this evening on changes to the local council law, Bartolo expressed misgivings over political bickering at council level that sometimes stifled the work at local level.

While not urging political parties to withdraw from local elections - Bartolo himself was elected on a political party ticket to the Mosta council - he called on the parties to carry out better screening of candidates to avoid having unwilling people elected to local government.

“Political parties tell you that they prefer fielding 13 candidates to try and secure a council majority but if there are only seven who are willing and capable to work, why should they field 13? I am sorry, but I do not agree with this reasoning because I served in council administrations were councillors just wanted to sabotage each other for partisan interest,” Bartolo said.

He called for less partisanship in local elections, insisting councillors should be there for residents.

Bartolo had served as a local councillor in Mosta for the Labour Party but was expelled after voting in favour of a motion supporting Malta’s EU membership in 2003.

Bartolo eventually joined the PN and was also mayor of the locality until his election to Parliament last year. 

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