16 APRIL 2003

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George Abela ‘very possible’ contender

By Kurt Sansone
Close aides and supporters to former MLP deputy leader George Abela yesterday told The Malta Financial and Business Times that Abela was interested in the post of leader vacated by Alfred Sant.
The aides told this newspaper that Abela had substantial support among the grassroots and delegates of the party. Another party delegate however, expressed concern that the party’s official structures are stacked against the charismatic lawyer.
Abela has often been mentioned as a possible contender even though he has remained silent on the policies of the Labour Party since his 1998 debacle when he left the party.
It is widely believed that Abela would be the ideal person to head a new Labour Party in favour of EU membership because he has been involved from day one in the negotiating process. Nobody in the MLP is as informed as Abela on the intricacies of the negotiations with the EU.
It is also being rumoured that General Workers’ Union officials have been pushing George Abela to accept the leadership post. However, this newspaper could neither confirm nor deny these rumours.
The fortunes of two other people within the Labour Party are closely tied to the decision George Abela will take. Party delegates speaking to this newspaper expressed their support for Marie-Louise Coleiro, however, they insisted that what she does is highly dependent on the decision that George Abela makes.
Coleiro, who has her electoral base in Qormi, is considered to be in the same clan as former finance minister Lino Spiteri and George Abela - both with roots in Qormi.
Coleiro polled an incredible 4,439 votes on the sixth district on Saturday.
The other person being mentioned in conjunction with the fortunes of Abela is MLP election manager Michael Falzon. In 1998 Falzon had expressed the same sentiments as those of George Abela against the holding of an early general election.
It is rumoured that with George Abela at the helm, Michael Falzon may opt to contest the post of deputy leader or secretary general.
Meanwhile, other contenders include John Attard Montalto and Jose Herrera, who have both publicly stated their intention of contesting the post of leadership.
Another possible contender is former police officer and lawyer Anglu Farrugia. However, the Mosta lawyer has not taken a decision and when contacted by this newspaper he simply opted for a ‘no comment’.
MLP delegates speaking to this newspaper also expressed their wish that former education minister Evarist Bartolo contest the leadership post. Bartolo appeals to middle class voters and despite being in Sant’s inner ring of collaborators he took a back benchers role in the election campaign.
Outside contenders include Karmenu Vella and Charles Mangion. The former will most probably opt not to contest given the high profile job he has at Corinthia, while Mangion did not exclude anything when contacted by another section of the online press.
But the final outcome may well depend on what Alfred Sant intends to do. Although Sant said he does not intend to contest the post of leadership it is unclear whether he will try to nominate someone in his stead. A party delegate cautioned that the outcome could depend on who Sant throws his weight behind and whether he declares it publicly.
Deputy leaders George Vella and Joe Brincat have not yet declared their intentions although it is widely expected that they would tender their resignations as well.
The general feeling among MLP delegates and supporters is a wait and see attitude. The general conference is not due for four to five weeks and the possible contenders are sounding out their sorts among the delegates. The ultimate decision rests with the 700 or so party delegates.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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