Chris Cardona to quit politics

Labour Party MP Chris Cardona will resign from parliament tomorrow, opening up a race for the party deputy leadership • District canvassers shifting to Clayton Bartolo

Former economy minister Chris Cardona
Former economy minister Chris Cardona

Labour MP Chris Cardona will be resigning from parliament tomorrow, opening up a race for the party deputy leadership, sister newspaper MaltaToday has revealed.

The former economy minister, a lawyer, returned to private practice after losing his ministerial portfolio in Prime Minister Robert Abela’s new Cabinet last January.

When contacted for comment, Cardona would neither confirm nor deny the information.

Interviewed last January on TVM’s Xtra, Cardona had acknowledged that politicians had an expiry date but insisted he still had a lot to offer the Labour Party.

However, sources close to the PL told MaltaToday that with his political career “effectively killed” last January, Cardona decided to call it a day.

“He is now involved with a number of companies and also has directorships abroad, which leaves him with little time to dedicate to politics,” the sources said.

Deputy leadership race

Party functionaries at district level told this newspaper that some of Cardona’s canvassers in Birkirkara had already started working for Parliamentary Secretary Clayton Bartolo, who will be contesting the next general election on the Eighth District.

Cardona was elected PL deputy leader party affairs in June 2016, replacing Konrad Mizzi, who was forced to resign the post shortly after being elected to it when his name cropped up in the Panama Papers scandal. Cardona saw off the challenge by then justice minister Owen Bonnici beating him by 50 votes.

Cardona’s resignation will now open a race for the deputy leader post.

Sources indicated that PL President Daniel Micallef is well-placed to succeed Cardona if he throws his hat in the ring but it is not excluded that some MPs may also toy with the idea.

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis is understood to have told close associates that he could also consider running for the post.

Casual election

Cardona’s resignation from MP will open up a casual election on the Eighth District, which will see only two potential contenders – former Nationalist Party mayor Ian Castaldi Paris, who shifted to the PL during the Muscat years, and lawyer Rachel Tua.

All other PL candidates on the district have been elected to parliament Castaldi Paris appears to be in pole position to take Cardona’s seat.

Who is Chris Cardona?

Cardona, 47, was first elected to parliament in 1996 and is one of a handful of Labour MPs who were part of the Alfred Sant administration between 1996 and 1998.

He was re-elected on the Birkirkara district in every general election since then.

After Labour returned to power in 2013, Cardona was made economy minister, a post he retained until January this year. Among his achievements, Cardona piloted the medicinal cannabis law that opened up the possibility for manufacturers to set up base in Malta.

Cardona courted controversy in January 2017 when journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia accused him and a ministerial aide of attending a brothel in Germany while on official business.

Cardona always denied the allegations and sued the Caruana Galizia. But the case fell by the wayside after the journalist was murdered in October 2017.

Mobile phone location data that would have provided proof or otherwise of Caruana Galizia’s claims was archived when the case was abandoned, however, the information has now been preserved as part of the ongoing public inquiry into the murder.

In November 2019, Cardona suspended himself from minister after the arrest of businessman Yorgen Fenech, who stands charged with masterminding Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Cardona’s name had cropped up during Fenech’s interrogations by the police. The former minister’s name appeared on a hand-written letter that Fenech’s private doctor allegedly passed on to his client while on police bail.

The letter, which allegedly was drafted by Keith Schembri, the former chief of staff in the office of the prime minister, implied Cardona was behind Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Cardona was briefly questioned by the police but investigators believe the letter was an attempt to frame the former minister and try to divert attention.

He was re-instated minister shortly after.

Cardona’s public career started as a journalist on the PL’s radio and TV stations, alongside Joseph Muscat, who went on to become party leader. The two remained close friends.

More in People