16 APRIL 2003

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Tuesday reshuffle leads to new and old faces

By Matthew Vella
Unprecedented changes in voters’ preferences for members of Eddie Fenech Adami’s cabinet have severely decimated support for ministers and other junior ministers.
Two ministers and one parliamentary secretary failed to be elected this year, their seats having been nabbed by newcomers to the district. Their chances at regaining their seat are yet to be seen if they contest the casual elections for the excess votes from candidates relinquishing their dual election.
Others have seen their vote share decrease considerably since 1998. But the 2003 general election’s vicissitudes have seen other ministers consolidating their support, Foreign Minister Joe Borg being one of them. He managed to secure both seats in his dual candidacy on the ninth and ten districts, with 4,753 and 3,262 votes respectively.
Borg’s popularity was confirmed through his influential position as foreign minister in Malta’s EU negotiations, his relinquished seat could help someone from the tenth district get back into Parliament.
It could be Michael Refalo, Tourism Minister and the eldest member of the last cabinet, who failed to be elected in the tenth district, losing out on Sliema mayor and football club president Robert Arrigo.
He is superseded as Tourism Minister by former Resources and Development Minister Francis Zammit Dimech.
Refalo had been an MP since 1971, and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism in 1987 and Minister for Justice and Culture in 1995.
With Zammit Dimech and Borg both elected in the ninth and the tenth districts, it is likely that both will relinquish their seats in the tenth districts. This sets the road open for casual elections in the tenth, with Michael Frendo and Refalo both in the running for the open seats.
Josef Bonnici, Minister for Economic Services, was another cabinet member who suffered a great blow in this year’s election.
A candidate in the eighth district, Bonnici was aiming to scoop up a seat Eddie Fenech Adami’s excess votes. Fenech Adami won 11,537 first preference votes. However, it was Birkirkara mayor Tonio Fenech who capitalised on the Prime Minister’s second preferences.
Finance Minister John Dalli and newly-appointed Technology and Investment Minister Austin Gatt, will be taking over the economic services ministry’s portfolios.
Bonnici also contested the eleventh district, where Fenech Adami, Tony Abela and Edwin Vassallo secured their seats.
With Fenech Adami probably relinquishing his seat in the eighth district, Bonnici will probably have to face Michael Asciak in a casual election which will determine which one of them will return to Parliament.
George Hyzler, Parliamentary Secretary for Economic Services, was also one of the surprise losses of this election. His post will be taken up by Tony Abela in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Services.
He failed to get elected in the sixth district, his home territory since 1992, and instead saw his seat filled in by young aspirant and former mayor Clyde Puli, who has been vying for the sixth district seat since 1996.
Also contesting the tenth district for the first time ever, Hyzler hoped to capitalise on Guido de Marco’s votes, lying vacant since his appointment as President of the Republic.
Hyzler was co-opted into Parliament in 1995 to fill his father George J Hyzler’s post when the latter resigned. He first contested the elections in 1992.
Hyzler’s absence from this legislature breaks a long-standing tradition for the Hyzlers, having been members of each legislature since 1947 and active in parliament through the Democratic Action Party, Boffa’s Malta Workers Party, the Malta Labour Party and the Nationalist Party.
It was former Justice and Local Councils Minister Austin Gatt who made incredible gains in the first district. Moving ahead on his own steam, having been elected through a casual election in 1998, Gatt increased his first count votes by 62 per cent to 3,618.
Gozo Minister Giovanno Debono seems to have done wonders for her campaign, her votes increasing by 33 per cent over 1998’s performance to a massive 6,591 votes and her Gozitan fiefdom secured until next elections.
Finance Minister John Dalli’s performance in the sixth district saw his first count votes fall by 11.6 per cent this year to 3,059 but then register a 1,650 first count votes on the 7 district which he contested for the first time. Newcomer Clyde Puli managed to capitalise on George Hyzler’s and Antoine Mifsud Bonnici’s decrease in first preference votes, to clinch the second PN seat. Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi also saw his first count votes decrease this year, a loss of 11.4 per cent since 1998.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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