Election: 80,000 voters must change number 1 preference

Nearly 80,000 citizens who cast their vote in the 2017 election will have to change their number one preference, because 10 candidates who between them amassed more than 25 per cent of the votes will not be on the ballot sheet.

The number could grow by another 10,000 if three MPs who will turn 70 in the year of the election choose to close their political career at the end of this legislature.

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There are then, of course, other candidates who obtained many votes between them in the last election and who have already decided not to throw in their hat this time round.

As we all know, between one election and another, there are always big changes in the list of candidates each political party puts forward.

As we speak, both the Labour Party and Nationalist Party are compiling the list, and some new names have already filtered through.

But, until the comprehensive list is made available, we already know that some of the candidates who were elected as MPs in 2017 will not be on it. Between them, they picked up 79,239 votes.

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Two leaders

The Labour Party was led by Joseph Muscat at the last election, while the Nationalist Party had Simon Busuttil as its leader. Both have resigned, in different circumstances.

Muscat has already made it clear that his political career is over, and he will not contest the next election. Busuttil has moved to a job in Brussels, and although he has not officially announced it, it is clear that he will not put his name forward in 2022.

Between them, in 2017, they had collected 48,195 votes, 27,540 for Muscat and 20,655 for Busuttil, on two districts each. This is 16 per cent of the total 310,655 valid votes cast.

Citizens who voted for them – in the second and fifth districts for Muscat, and the 11th and 12th districts for Busuttil – will have to vote for a different candidate next time round.

Their replacements, as leaders, are Robert Abela and Bernard Grech.

It has already been reported that Grech will be contesting the fifth and 11th districts, one in the south and the other a district left vacant by Busuttil.

In the last election, Abela had contested on only one district, the sixth. In the next election, he will be contesting on two districts, the second of which has not been made public. It is possible that Abela will be taking Muscat’s place on the second district, but other options are not being discarded.

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Two women

Two women were also elected on two districts in the last election, one from each major party. And both have resigned midway through the legislature and will not be contesting next time round.

Helena Dalli was elected from the second and third district. It was the second time in her career that she had made it to Parliament from two districts – the first time had been in 2008. She was appointed Equality Minister by Muscat, but relinquished the post to take up a place on the European Commission.

In the last election, she obtained 650 first preferences on the second district, but one needs to mention that this was the district contested by Muscat and, as usually happens, a leader gets the highest number of votes by far. Dalli had inherited more than 3,000 votes from Muscat on the second count. She had then obtained 1,787 first preferences on the third district.

In 2017, Portelli became the third woman to make it from two districts in Malta’s political history. Apart from Dalli, the other had been Dolores Cristina in 2008.

Portelli had been elected on the ninth district, with 1,468 number one votes, and the 13th, Gozo, where she obtained 2,622 first preferences.

Even here, the voters who gave Dalli and Portelli their first preference in 2017 will have to decide on a new candidate to vote for next time round.

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Two deputy leaders

Two other politicians who made it to Parliament in 2017, and who will not be contesting the next election, are two former deputy leaders of the Labour Party.

Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi were both elected from one district three years ago, but both are no longer in the party’s good graces.

Cardona was a deputy leader until early this year. He had succeeded Konrad Mizzi in 2016, after the latter resigned just a few weeks into his job following the Panama Papers revelations.

Cardona resigned from the PL deputy leadership and also from Parliament after his name was mentioned in court proceedings related to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He denies any involvement.

Mizzi was kicked out of the Labour Party in June after he refused to resign. Seventy-one of the 73 members of the PL parliamentary group and the executive committee voted against him. He remains an independent MP.

Mizzi had obtained 4,968 votes in the last election, on the fourth district. Cardona had netted 3,218 first preferences on the eighth district. He had also obtained 2,274 votes on the 11th district, from which he was not elected.

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Two Farrugias

Marlene Farrugia and Godfrey Farrugia had been elected for the Partit Demokratiku, in coalition with the Nationalist Party. They have since resigned from the PD, but stayed on as independent MPs in the House of Representatives.

They have both said that they will not be contesting the next election. Marlene Farrugia had obtained 1,086 and 821 votes in the fifth and 10th districts, while Godfrey Farrugia had picked up 1,080 and 494 first preferences on the sixth and seventh districts.

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Two removed from Cabinet

Edward Scicluna and Silvio Parnis have both lost their place in the Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Abela a few weeks ago. Scicluna will move on to become the new governor of the Central Bank of Malta on 1 January while Parnis said he has hurt so much by the decision taken that he will not contest the next election.

Scicluna was elected from two districts in 2017, bagging 3,665 votes on the seventh district and 3,577 votes on the eighth, for a total of 7,242 first preferences. Parnis obtained 3,334 votes on the fourth district.

All together

Summing up, the above 10 candidates had obtained a staggering 79,239 first preferences which, from a total of 310,665 valid votes cast in 2017, make up 25.5 per cent of the electorate.

This means that more than one-fourth of the voters will be casting a preference for a different candidate in the next election. Of course, some of the voters who took part in the 2017 election have passed away, and among them are electors who voted for these 10 candidates.

But having 10 candidates who were chosen as the number one preference by more than one-fourth of the electorate, and who will not be at the starting blocks next time, is not so common.

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Others

The 10 candidates mentioned above will not be the only 2017 candidates who will not repeat the experience next time round. For example, others whose efforts three years ago led to only a handful of votes will not bother.

There will be those who, although doing fairly well but remained out of the House of Representatives, have moved on in their personal lives and career, and are no longer interested.

There are then three MPs – all of them Labour – who, in the year of the election, will be at the cusp of their 70th birthday or have already reached the milestone. Whether they will be contesting the election remains to be seen.

One of them, Evarist Bartolo, is still very popular and was elected from two districts in 2017, picking up 2,444 first preferences in the 10th district and 2,732 in the 12th.

The other two are Joe Mizzi, who collected 768 votes on the second district (but then added 3,046 number two votes from Joseph Muscat’s tally and was eventually elected) and 420 votes in the third; and Manuel Mallia, who netted 1,882 and 1,777 votes respectively in the ninth and 10th districts (he later made it to Parliament via casual election).

Together, these three garnered 10,023 votes which, added to the 79,239 first preferences collected by the eight candidates mentioned earlier, make up a total of 89,262. This is 28.7 per cent of the total electorate.

Minor candidates

All political parties field minor candidates in elections, and many of them fare poorly, obtaining very few votes. This discourages them and they will not go through the trouble again a second time. To bag a handful of preferences after months of campaigning, house visits, putting aside personal commitments and other inconveniences brought about by an election – not to mention the costs involved in organising parties and printing leaflets – is disheartening.

The immediate family, other relatives and close friends of these candidates, who gave them their number one vote as a personal courtesy, will also need to find a new politician to vote for in the next election.

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