After securing a landslide electoral win and being sworn in as Prime Minister on Monday, Robert Abela’s next order of business is announcing his Cabinet for the upcoming legislature.
As Malta’s newly-elected MPs eagerly await the Prime Minister’s call to see if they are handed a ministerial portfolio, Abela himself is expected to announce the cabinet tomorrow. His 2020 cabinet was the largest in history with 17 ministers and eight parliamentary secretaries and here’s what we think and/or expect the Cabinet will look like during the upcoming legislature.
Herrera & Bartolo’s Replacement
What immediately comes to mind is who will be Abela’s pick to replace José Herrera and Evarist Bartolo, who failed to get elected last weekend and announced their retirement on Monday. Herrera was responsible of the Culture Ministry whilst Bartolo was responsible of Foreign Affairs, with the latter post carrying a fair amount of weight amid the current Ukraine-Russia crisis and international uncertainty.
The now-vacant Culture portfolio may be granted to a newcomer like Alison Zerafa Civelli, with multiple sources suggesting that she could be given an immediate place in Cabinet. Despite being a Parliamentary newcomer, Zerafa Civella has a fair amount of political experience, serving as a Bormla councillor since 2009 and mayor since 2013 whilst also holding a deputy chairperson role within infrastructure Malta.
With regards to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, both Lovin Malta & Times of Malta have reported rumours of Chris Fearne eventually succeeding Helena Dalli as Malta’s EU commissioner, potentially occupying the Foreign Affairs Ministry until Dalli’s tenure is over.
No Cabinet announcement comes without its shock change-ups and Fearne’s shift would definitely come as a surprise, especially with the Deputy Leader being heavily praised for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and becoming Malta’s most popular candidate (beyond the two party leaders) with 12,640 combined votes on both districts. A move for Fearne would leave the Health portfolio up for grabs but it remains to be seen who could be touted as a potential replacement.
Meanwhile, politicos and media outlets alike have been speculating somewhat of a change-up within Malta’s more demanding ministries such as Justice, Tourism, Environment, Energy & Transport and Infrastructure.
We could see someone like Robert Abela ally and lawyer Andy Ellul taking on the Justice portfolio after being elected into Parliament for the first time. Ellul was first co-opted into Parliament back in January after being involved in a number of legislative reforms in the social and family.
Meanwhile, purely for banter reasons, one cannot help but imagine what would happen if Ian Borg was appointed Minister for the Environment. OK, so hear us out: while Borg may not have been everyone’s favourite, he was of the Labour Party’s best performing candidates and if he had to take his #GettingThingsDone approach to Malta’s environment… who knows.
Miriam Dalli is also expected to be given a top ministry following her tenure as Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development. Not only did Dalli resign from her European Parliament post to return to the Labour Party structure as MP and Minister, but the popular politician also happens to be the only woman to be elected from two districts.
Earlier today, Newsbook.com.mt reported that Clint Camilleri may have been touted to hold the Infrastructure portfolio, also suggesting that doctor Jo Etienne Abela could occupy the Health Ministry
While a considerable amount of change-ups is to be expected with any cabinet announcement, we predict that some of Malta’s top ministries are likely to be occupied by the same people. After being appointed Minister of Education just over 3 months ago, Clifton Grima will probably stay on, especially after being elected on two districts and securing 7,031. Likewise, Silvio Schembri will probably stick around as Minister for Economy, as will Clyde Caruana as Finance Minister after a reputable tenure since being co-opted into Parliament in October 2020.
Labour powerhouse and Gozitan favourite Clint Camilleri is also likely to remain Minister for Gozo whilst fellow Gozitan and party veteran Anton Refalo will most probably hold his title as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Animal Rights.
After securing 5,311 votes on both districts and holding a respectable tenure as Minister for Social Accomodation, it would also make sense Roderick Galdes to hold his post.
The gender corrective mechanism was enacted into law and comes into effect when a gender has under 40% of representation within a Parliament made up of two political parties.The mechanism initially came into place to increase the number of women in Parliament due to Malta’s worryingly-low rates of elected female politicians, but despite this, may have served as a double-edged sword.
Of Malta’s 13 best-performing candidates, none of them were women. With the Prime Minister’s repeated call for more inclusion and increased opportunities, one cannot imagine a one-sided Parliament under Robert Abela. Former Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar could find her way into parliament through the mechanism or casual election, as could Alicia Bugeja Said, who holds a PhD in Anthropology and Conservation from the University of Kent.
Other potential entries from casual election & gender corrective mechanism include Labour’s Rebecca Buttigieg, Katya De Giovanni, Romilda Baldacchino Zarb, Amanda Spiteri Grech or Naomi Cachia. On the Nationalist Side, we could see Janice Chetcuti, Rebekah Cilia, Eve Borg Bonello, Emma Portelli Bonnici and Alessia Psaila Zammit.
Here’s a breakdown of the best performing candidates from Malta’s two major parties: