30 APRIL 2003

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One or two more new faces possible in Parliament

Casual elections for parliamentary seats can spring surprises, but not many are expected in the elections that should be held next week. There could be no new faces in parliament.
Speculation is, however, rife that certain PN parliamentarians, including ministers and parliamentary secretaries, could contest the Euro Parliamentary elections, attracted in no small measure by the Euro100,000 yearly salary.
Should parliamentary members be successful, they would pave the way for more ‘new’ faces in parliament.
In the PN camp a surprise could be sprung by Anna Schiavone or Franco Debono in the fifth district, but otherwise expect to see well-known faces taking up the vacated PN seats. Should either Schiavone or Debono be elected, these would be new to Malta’s parliament.
In the Labour camp a new face could only come from the third district seat vacated by George Vella, but even in that district former minister Alfred Portelli could pip the other contestants at the post.
The PN Executive seems to have decided that the seats to be given up are those that are not the hometowns of the elected parliamentarians, giving, at least to outsiders, the impression that decisions were not tactical. However, political observers said the seats given up were those that paved the way for the politicians that would be least competition to those within the Executive.

Prof Josef Bonnici and Michael Refalo have already lost their ministerial positions and even if elected as expected, will find that parliamentary life on the benches is not exciting as leading a ministry.
Should the PN Executive have decided that Louis Galea was to give up his seat on the seventh district, architect Robert Musumeci would have been in with a good chance.
It remains unclear, even to Musumeci, on what criteria the particular seats are held and others made vacant, but Musumeci, although disappointed not to be in with a chance, trusts the PN Executive to have made the right choice. Contacted by The Malta Financial and Business Times, Musumeci said he had been hopeful of a chance of election, but added: "I respect the decision of the Executive, of course everybody hopes to get elected, but I am sure the decision was taken after a careful weighing up of all the options."
Asked whether he would consider contesting the Euro Parliamentary Elections Musumeci said: "I would never exclude that possibility, always provided I have the backing of the party."
Former MP Helen D’Amato is being considered the favourite to take Louis Galea’s seat in the fifth district, even if she had less first count votes that Schiavone and only 45 more than Debono. However, the elected candidate will be the one to garner most votes from those of Louis Galea and since D’Amato is from Siggiewi, as is Galea, she is expected to win more of his votes. This having been said, Anna Schiavone inherited marginally more votes from Galea than D’Amato did, so the competition is still on.
In the ninth district John Vella, who has been elected since 1976, is expected to take the seat vacated by Francis Zammit Dimech. Malta’s man at the Convention on the Future of Europe, Michael Frendo has an outside chance of election.
The decision to vacate one seat on either the ninth and tenth district would seem to lesson former parliamentary secretary George Hyzler’s election chances, although he is not without hope.
"On a personal level I would have preferred it had the party given up two seats in the tenth district, but since I did not participate in the discussions within the Executive, I trust that the best decision has been taken," Hyzler told The Malta Financial and Business Times.
Asked whether he would consider contesting the Euro Parliamentary elections, Hyzler said it was still too early to decide.
The most likely candidates to be elected on the tenth district are former Ministers Michael Refalo and Michael Frendo.
In the eighth district the seat vacated by Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami will almost certainly be inherited by Josef Bonnici, but Dr Mark Fenech stands an outside chance. The decision leaves former MP Dr Michael Axiaq out of the race.
In the Labour camp all seats were given up in the home districts so that Alfred Sant chose to give up his seat to make way for Joe Debono Grech, with John Butigieg and Myriam Spiteri Debono having an outside chance.
The loser was Sandro Schembri Adami who would almost certainly be elected on the first district had the former prime minister decided to give that seat up.
Former deputy leader George Vella is giving up his seat in the third district and there will be a big struggle for that seat with Joe Abela, Chris Agius, Jesmar Baldacchino, Owen Bonnici, Alfred Portelli and Rosario Zammit in with a chance. Here parliament could welcome a rookie unless Portelli is elected as he has already served as a minister.
The big loser is former Minister for Health Louis Buhagiar, since it was decided that Vella is to retain his fifth district seat, where Buhagiar was next in line.
Evarist Bartolo, it was decided, will give up his home tenth district seat paving the way for Joe Cuschieri who was obviously preferred to Tony Agius Decelis.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, 2 Cali House, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 02, Malta
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