Labour leadership race closes with candidate rallies in Paola and Naxxar

Robert Abela held a rally in Paola square and Chris Fearne at Villa Arrigo in Naxxar

The leadership race for the Labour Party’s new leader and Malta’s next Prime Minister came to a close on Friday, as both candidates hosted rallies in Naxxar and Paola.

In December out-going Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that he would be resigning, after a series of revelations from the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation precipitated a legal and political crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne started off his speech by talking about his time in the Labour Party, looking back at his work with previous leaders.

“I am proud of how this party has evolved and continued to strengthen itself as the years rolled by,” Fearne said, looking back at his 40 years of service to the party.

Fearne promised continuity, stating that when talking to party members a large number of them expressed a wish for stability to be ensured.

“I have worked closely with Joseph Muscat, and if I am elected PM, as from next Monday we will get back to regaining our economic momentum,” Fearne said.

Fearne said that since he was a young boy, he has always dreamt that all children live a normal life.

“When I became a man, I realised that this was also the dream of the PL and we have the opportunity of making this dream come true,” he said.

He also said that a much-needed reform is needed at the national broadcaster, stating that seven years into a Labour legislature, individuals with their own private agenda still try to obstruct the party with hurdles.

“That is why we need the party’s television and radio stations,” Fearne said.

Fearne said that he is proud of the party’s past leaders, while also expressing his confidence in the ministers and parliamentary secretaries in government.

Labour MP Robert Abela said that his campaign has been from the people to the people.

Abela said that despite being the underdog, he has always believed in the ability of those around him.

“I didn’t have a campaign that was ready to go, because I have always remained loyal to Joseph Muscat,” he said.

Abela said that this is no time for experiments, and said that he will continue to carry out the “winning recipe” which has brought continual success to the party.

He said that he always believed in providing the party members with the decision of not only choosing their new leader, but the country’s next PM.

“That is why you should think twice about how you vote next Saturday, because you will be the ones choosing who will be facing the Nationalist Party’s leader come the next general election,” Abela said.

Abela said that his political style is that of being close to people, where one can truly understand the realities and challenges faced by the country’s families.

“I want everyone to have a decent way of living, where people are not held back from living the life they deserve to be living,” Abela said.

Abela said that he is proud to be a socialist, and that is why he is proud to be working at the forefront of the Labour Party.

He said that this is no time to attack the party’s rivals, but a time when both parties should unite so together, they can take the country out of this political crisis.

Abela said that the Labour Party is a party that welcomes everyone, but insisted that genuine Labourites deserve justice.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their dreams, and now should be the time where we don’t talk about politics of red and blue, but a politics of a unified country,” Abela said.

He appealed for maturity and serenity, so that the country can emerge stronger than it has ever been before from the “peculiar situation it finds itself in”.  

“We cannot forget the situation we are in, because that would be a grave mistake, and that is why there are decisions that need to be taken,” Abela said.

Robert Abela said that the country deserves a national broadcaster that is independent and trustworthy, promising a “much needed reform” should he be elected.

“I believe in a strong and independent media,” Abela said.

Abela said that when the result of the leadership election comes out, he will be embracing his opponent Chris Fearne, as well as those who had a differing opinion during the campaign.

“Come next Sunday morning, we must unite so we can continue to work for the Labour party and the country,” Abela said.

Saturday’s leadership election process

Addressing the party’s extraordinary general conference on Tuesday evening, electoral commissioner Dean Hili said that 17,500 members will be eligible to vote.

This will be the first time that the next PL leader will be chosen by party members.

Early voting started on Wednesday, with votes cast sealed in a strong room agreed between the two candidates.

Remaining members will cast their vote on Saturday, between 8 am through to 8pm.

On Saturday evening the counting process will start at the party’s headquarters in Hamrun, with the result expected to be announced in the early hours of Sunday.