• January 18 2004
Minister of foreign affairs - odds in favour of the only likely candidate
With his imminent
appointment as Malta’s first EU commissioner, Foreign Minister
Joe Borg will have to say goodbye to local politics and relinquish his
parliamentary seat on the ninth district. While that move was roundly
predicted it is what happens next that is of interest to observers of
the Maltese political landscape.
Michael Frendo, a former minister, is increasingly being tipped as the
most likely person to fill in the post of foreign minister. Dr Frendo
was the PN’s choice to represent Malta at the Convention on the
Future of Europe and heads the foreign affairs committee in parliament.
He is also one of the few lawyers to be conversant in EU affairs.
However, Dr Frendo’s appointment may be conditioned by the influence
Richard Cachia Caruana may have on the key decisions ahead.
Some newspapers have postulated that Finance and Economic Affairs Minister
John Dalli may also be a likely candidate, but Dalli aides laughed off
the suggestion, saying this was mere speculation and the minister was
very focused on his ministry agenda for the next six months.
Since the 1998 election,
in which Michael Frendo made it to parliament after a late casual election
when Guido de Marco was appointed president, relations between Cachia
Caruana and Michael Frendo have been, to put it mildly, frigid.
Cachia Caruana, the Prime minister’s personal assistant and a
very influential person within some quarters PN, has never shown enthusiasm
in giving Frendo a more leading role within the parliamentary group.
The appointment of Michael Frendo on the Convention of the Future of
Europe was the last chance for the PN to rehabilitate Frendo.
Another pretender for the post is MP Jason Azzopardi, a Guido deMarco
look alike and the PN’s international secretary. However, the
lawyer young age and absence of experience at Cabinet level are definite
Whoever is chosen, the nomination of a foreign minister will most probably
be made within the context of a wider cabinet reshuffle that could see
a number of ministers changing portfolio.
Joe Borg’s departure will, however, not only provide a vacancy
for the post of foreign minister but also a vacancy in parliament. His
seat will have to be filled by a casual election, which will possibly
see six Nationalist candidates vying for the vacated seat.
The most likely person to fill the vacation is Dr John Vella, a former
MP who failed to get elected at the last elections. Analysing the electoral
results shows that Dr Vella’s top vote before dropping from the
race was 1,478. Although a candidate’s top vote is of no relevance
in a casual election, where all contestants start with a clean sheet,
it is a clear indication of how Borg’s votes could be inherited.
However, Dr Vella may be given a good run for his money by Gzira local
councillor and auctioneer Albert Rizzo and local council association
president Ian Micallef.
The other candidates, Franco Galea, Msida Mayor Carmelo Grima and Sliema
lawyer Melvyn Mifsud are less likely to be elected.