12 MARCH 2003

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Labour MPs take different tack

While Labour Leader Dr Alfred Sant has been clear that the issue of EU membership has been decided, several Labour MPs are not so sure. None of the MPs contacted yesterday wished the referendum result to be ignored, none claimed that ‘Partnership’ had won, and none excluded a possible referendum on membership should Labour be elected in the forthcoming election.
Labour shadow minister for Education Evarist Bartolo said he was very happy with the referendum outcome. He said his reaction is similar to that of former Prime Minister Gorg Borg Olivier following the referendum on ‘integration’ with the UK in 1956. The then Nationalist party had called for a boycott and following the result Borg Olivier said 40 per cent of eligible voters had not voted and therefore the motion, for which 45 per cent had voted in favour, could not be carried.
Bartolo said he has an open mind as to whether another referendum should be held, and told The Malta Business and Financial Times that the outcome of the referendum "should not be ignored."
Referring to the results of the Local Elections Bartolo said the outcome indicated interesting result in Rabat, Malta "The result in Rabat is a continuation of the swing in favour of the MLP that started last Local Elections and now three northern districts, the others being Mellieha and Mtarfa, have labour majorities."
Asked why Rabat swung towards Labour, Bartolo said it might well have been the negative performance of the outgoing council that swung the vote.
The PN lost the majority of seats it enjoyed in Rabat for the first time.
Labour MP Jose Herrera believes the result of the referendum should not be ignored, speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times, he said: "I had never said the result of the referendum should be ignored, it should be considered. I expected a bigger ‘yes’ vote because of the strong campaign of the pro-EU camp but the idea of a referendum after the elections should not be discounted."
Asked by The Malta Financial and Business Times whether the Partnership ideal had won, Herrera said "I would not say that, my reading of the result is that the parties are neck and neck."
Herrera said the referendum should have included another question to find out whether people wanted closer ties with the EU without joining.
Asked for his reaction on the results of the Local Council, Herrera said the increase of the PN side was slight and the result was not alarming for the MLP. He said the results indicate there were many Labour supporters that did not vote.
MP Chris Cardona said he expected an unequivocal result: "The referendum was called by the government and the ‘yes’ vote has the resources of the government, MIC and others, who expected to obtain at least fifty percent of the electorate."
Cardona said the major significance of the outcome was that the government side did not achieve its aim.
Asked by The Malta Financial and Business Times whether the result of the referendum could be ignored he said: "No major decision like this should be ignored. What will happen rather depends on who is elected to government. I don’t exclude that another referendum could take place, but so far the Labour party is not committed to that idea."
Cardona said it was too early for him to comment about the Local Council elections, but said he believed the MLP directive not to vote seems to have been followed.
Shadow Environment Minister Joe Mizzi was not enthusiastic to comment on the outcomes. He said "the results are there for all to see."
Pressed for something more substantial Mizzi could only repeat that the majority of the electorate had not voted for membership.
Quizzed about what Labour might do if it is elected to power Mizzi could only say: "When we enter Parliament we will decide."

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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