Labour MPs in push to have Chris Fearne as only contender for party leadership

Internal negotiations are underway in the Labour Party to whittle down the leadership contest to a one-horse race in the hope of having Joseph Muscat exit as early as next week

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne is being pushed by various MPs to become the next leader of the Labour Party
Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne is being pushed by various MPs to become the next leader of the Labour Party

The Labour Party leadership contest may end up being a one-horse race as MPs are rallying around the candidature of deputy prime minister Chris Fearne.

MaltaToday is informed that intense negotiations are underway to convince potential leadership candidates not to contest, paving the way for Fearne.

The efforts were bolstered today when Labour MEP Miriam Dalli announced that she will not be contesting the leadership despite her popularity among party members.

Sources said that Fearne has managed to rally strong support within the Labour parliamentary group, where there is very little appetite for a divisive leadership contest in the circumstances.

The same sources said it was unclear yet whether Transport Minister Ian Borg, who is interested in the post, will agree to stand aside. People close to Borg have suggested that he has not yet made up his mind and the situation remains one of flux.

Another potential contender, MP Robert Abela has so far not indicated what his intentions are, limiting himself, earlier this week, to saying that any decision he will take will be in the best interest of the party.

If Fearne is uncontested for the post, he will still have to face a confirmation vote among PL delegates but party insiders are hoping this process could be brought forward.

“If there is only one candidate, Fearne could be confirmed next week and Joseph Muscat can resign earlier than planned. It would also help Malta save face at the European Council meeting scheduled for next week,” the sources said.

Nominations for the PL leadership open on Monday and close two days later. If there are two contenders or more, the new leader will be installed on 12 January.

Over the past week there has been growing internal pressure on Muscat to resign immediately in the aftermath of damning revelations in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation that implicated his former chief of staff Keith Schembri.

However, sources said the difficulty the party faced was that Muscat’s natural replacement in government – Fearne – was also an interested party in the leadership contest.