Gavin Gulia sworn in as MP, only to announce immediate resignation

Updated 08:20 AM

Abela free to co-opt replacement

Ritratt: Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Former parliamentary secretary Gavin Gulia’s return to Parliament has proven to be short-lived: he was sworn in on Wednesday only to immediately announce his intention to resign his seat.

Gulia, who had also been an MP between 1996 and 2013, was elected in a casual election to succeed former Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, who resigned to become governor of the Central Bank of Malta. But he has chosen to stay on as chairperson of the Malta Tourism Authority, a role which cannot be occupied by a sitting MP.

The immediate resignation would suggest that Gulia turned the casual election into a farce, but his decision to contest – successfully – was in the Labour Party’s interest.

The party would have hoped to avoid the election of another candidate – former Rabat mayor Charles Azzopardi, who was banned from contesting under the party banner in last year’s local council election. Azzopardi was since confirmed to have become a member of the Nationalist Party, leading to the possibility of the government losing a seat.

Since Gulia was elected in a casual election, his replacement will be chosen by co-option, leaving Prime Minister Robert Abela free to put a person of his choice in Parliament.

This would be Abela’s third co-option of an MP since he became PM last year: last October, he co-opted his head of secretariat Clyde Caruana and MEP Miriam Dalli following the resignation of his disgraced predecessor Joseph Muscat and Etienne Grech from Parliament. Grech had also been elected via casual election: in Muscat’s case, none of the eligible candidates chose to contest, and no casual election was held.

Both co-opted MPs were subsequently included in Abela’s cabinet in a reshuffle carried out in November, 10 months into his term as PM.

Gulia, who thanked his constituents for their support, said that he would be resigning his seat at the request of Abela, who asked him to stay on at the MTA at a crucial period for the tourism industry. “Since the Prime Minister asked, I accepted the invitation,” he said.

Later in the evening, the Tourism Ministry somewhat obliviously announced that Gulia had resigned from chairing the MTA before being sworn in as MP: presumably Gulia will now be reappointed to his old position.

Abela ‘continues to manipulate our democratic system’ – Grech

The Nationalist Party was unimpressed by Gulia’s actions, with party leader Bernard Grech stating that no one believed that he and Abela had not planned everything out “before performing today’s stunt in contempt of voters.”

Robert Abela jinteressah biss mill-interessi partiġjani tiegħu u tal-Partit Laburista.Illum Robert Abela reġa'…

Posted by Bernard Grech on Wednesday, January 13, 2021

He said that Abela confirmed that he was only interested in serving his and his party’s partisan interests “when he ridiculed the highest institution of the land and when one of his MPs resigned seconds after taking the oath of office.”

Grech said that once more, Abela was “manipulating our democratic system to co-opt whoever he wants – and not who the people want.”