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NEWS | Sunday, 15 June 2008

Mind the age gap

Irrespective of whether or not Joseph Muscat is too young to be the leader of the Opposition, his newly elected deputy for parliamentary affairs Anglu Farrugia is almost twenty years older. Can it work? By DAVID DARMANIN

“Joseph can use the age difference to his favour because ultimately I am 20 years more experienced. I can add value to the new leadership,” Anglu Farrugia, 52, the new deputy leader of the MLP says. “Of course, we will have to agree on a modus vivendi, along with a number of other issues we will have to agree on.”
The self-proclaimed “great force against the Nationalist Party” is going to have to strike a balance between his “ferociousness” and new leader Joseph Muscat’s moderate style.
“There will be moments where the leader and I will have to agree on strategies to confront the Nationalists. His views may at times be more moderate.”
Indeed, Farrugia has already declared that Labour should not give in to any pairing agreement with the government, something already in contrast with Muscat’s ‘new style’ of politics. “What I had said was in the context of the possibility of me becoming a leader. I have been elected deputy leader. The pairing issue will obviously be discussed extensively within the internal structures of the party. There is a large number of Labour MPs sharing my views on pairing.”
Farrugia had also been clear-cut about secretary-general Jason Micallef, saying he would have resigned years ago had he been Micallef. He is still of the same opinion. “His destiny is essentially in the hands of the general conference – as was the case with Joseph Muscat’s leadership and in my case with deputy leadership.”
And what if Micallef is re-confirmed? Is there space for his involvement in the modus vivendi? “I work with everyone, I am very self-disciplined in that respect. By all means, in such an eventuality Jason will have to realise that those actions he could have avoided in the past, will now certainly have to be avoided now, under this leader.”
While not explicitly confirming he was not chosen as one of the papabiles by the party machine, Farrugia said it was clear the machine was working right for certain candidates: “Maybe it needed more oil. I spoke to delegates individually, and I can tell you that this was a very tough campaign. However, the majority of delegates love the party so much that they wanted to ensure nobody influences the way they decide. There were moments where I was even shown the door. I admire those delegates: this is what the party stands for. The delegates have chosen in the freest of ways – although there could have been people who tried influencing them. They resisted nonetheless, as witnessed in the result.”
Farrugia will be at the forefront in proposing electoral reform – although the other kind that will deny Maltese nationals residing abroad of their voting rights. “You cannot possibly grant the Maltese living abroad the right to participate in Maltese democracy. They do not pay income tax here, and some do not even have a residence here. This certainly needs to be addressed. We will need to undergo an electoral reform – there cannot be anymore playing around with votes. I do not exclude that Labour didn’t play around with votes too when it had the opportunity to do so, but the Nationalists exaggerated this time around.”
Only days after the general elections, Farrugia alleged he had evidence of vote-buying by Nationalist agents. “The police are investigating to see whether there is a criminal case. The fact that voters took photos while they were voting PN may not be criminal after all, although it would constitute a crime in some other EU countries. The problem lies with political responsibility. This foul play was organised by people who are well involved in the Nationalist Party and they did it for the specific reason, that is, to give the party a push.”
Now that he has the necessary tools available to turn this personal crusade into a party issue, Farrugia seems to be determined in using all means available to take the case further.
“I will be discussing this issue with the leader and with the internal structures of the party and whatever action needs to be taken, it will be taken. But yes, I will be proposing to further this issue within the party.”
Farrugia’s brand of foreign policy objectives could even turn out to be thorn in the side for Muscat’s own European aspirations. Farrugia had made no secret in being against the idea of Turkey joining the EU.
Even when criticised harshly, he doesn’t seem to be the type to change his opinion easily. “This was my personal opinion. If the party agrees to Turkey becoming an EU member that will be the party’s decision. I may argue against it, for reasons I believe in, but the ultimate decision will be a collective one.”

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15 June 2008

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