MaltaToday | 22 June 2008 | Brussels could be Abela’s next move

NEWS | Sunday, 22 June 2008

Brussels could be Abela’s next move

Senior Labour officials tip leadership runner-up George Abela for MEP. By Matthew Vella

Senior Labour officials have told MaltaToday they will support a European Parliament candidacy for leadership runner-up George Abela, who is however refusing to comment about his future plans.
Yesterday, Abela told MaltaToday not to persist in questions over a forthcoming bid for the Brussels parliament in 2009.
The 60-year-old former Labour deputy leader is understood to enjoy support amongst his party’s top brass for the lucrative job of MEP.
Labour leader Joseph Muscat’s seat is expected to be vacated by October when he is co-opted to the Maltese parliament and appointed Opposition Leader.
Abela yesterday dismissed MaltaToday’s questions about whether he had offered his services to the party again, after being first refused by former leader Alfred Sant to stand for the elections in 2004.
“That is water under the bridge,” Abela said yesterday.
Asked about his being approached by the party to consider contesting for the European Parliament, Abela refused to answer: “Please do not ask me these questions. Do not persist please.”
He cut the conversation short, sounding uncomfortable to face questions concerning his future move.
Joseph Muscat had already declared he had “a specific project” lined up for George Abela, after pledging a central role for each of the four contestants in the Labour leadership elections.
Abela’s widespread popular support is the backdrop to his potential candidacy for the European Parliament. Labour wants to keep its three-seat presence in Brussels, and consolidate its strength against the Nationalist Party, which has two MEPs.
“He is likely to be elected straight away, and attract more votes from across the political divide,” a party insider told MaltaToday.
The move is also expected to generate some antipathy from other pretenders who are seeking higher-profile positions inside the party. To many, Abela was an outsider since resigning in 1998 in protest at Alfred Sant’s decision to go for early elections. But Abela proved to be a force to be reckoned with, placing second behind Muscat in the leadership race, and prompting the new leader to reach out to Abela in a bid to keep Labour as united as possible.

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