Keith Azopardi formally signalled his return to frontline politics yesterday as he put his name forward as a candidate in the GSD leadership election which he will contest with current Leader of the Opposition and GSD leader Roy Clinton.
The news was confirmed following an Executive meeting of the party at GSD headquarters in College Lane last night with the leadership elections now set to take place on November 30.
According to GSD MP Edwin Reyes, who heads the committee set up to oversee the leadership election, it was a positive meeting.
Although Executive members were pleased that the leadership election would not be an uncontested one, he said, some had expressed disappointment that a third candidate had not put his name forward.
Mr Azopardi, a barrister, served as a GSD minister from 1996 to 2003 and was deputy Chief Minister during the second of those terms under Sir Peter Caruana.
He later left the party to form the Progressive Democratic Party, which he led into two general elections without being able to secure a seat in Parliament.
Mr Azopardi rejoined the GSD earlier this year and vowed to play his part in the renewal of the party “to the extent that the current leadership, MPs, the Executive and members desire”.
Following last night’s meeting, at which he was not present, he told the Chronicle: “I feel honoured to have been nominated; to have been welcomed back and had expressions of support from many members.”
“I want to work hard for the regeneration and re-energising of the Party in line with its traditional roots.”
“There are major issues of concern to people that need positive solutions. I want to build on the work that has been done over the last few years and present a strong alternative for Government at the next general election.”
“I would hope to set out my ideas to the Executive and members in coming weeks so they can take a clear decision in the leadership election.”
“I very much look forward to working with everyone in the Party towards these aims and hope to secure the confidence and backing of GSD Elected Members, the Executive and Members.”
Roy Clinton stepped in as interim leader after Daniel Feetham stood down from the post earlier this year citing the impact politics has had on his family, particularly his wife and children.
He confirmed that he had submitted his nomination form for the leadership of the GSD having been encouraged to do so by members of the party.
In a personal statement Mr Clinton said: “I would first of all like to thank all those members who have supported my nomination and encouraged me to put my name forward for the leadership of the GSD.”
“I said in July that I would serve as leader for as long as the Executive and Members please, and today I give them that choice,” he added.
Mr Clinton further told the Chronicle that he offers the GSD his 100% commitment as well as a fresh approach to politics.
BOSSINO DECIDES NOT TO STAND
Although tipped as a potential candidate for the leadership post former GSD deputy leader Damon Bossino has not put his name forward.
This is despite being encouraged to stand by many individuals who, of their own initiative, obtained all the necessary nominations on Mr Bossino’s behalf in less than a day.
Mr Bossino, a barrister who works in the same law firm as Mr Azopardi, served as a GSD MP in opposition and deputy leader after running against Mr Feetham in a leadership election in 2013.
“I met all the constitutional requirements of the GSD party, however interpreted, which would have allowed me to stand,” he said in a personal statement.
Explaining his decision not to contest the leadership of the GSD at this juncture Mr Bossino said: “After much consideration and consultation with a wide range of interested individuals, I have come to the conclusion that both for personal and political reasons, it would not be appropriate for me to enter this race.”
He added: “I stood with the GSD after being out of politics for 11 years. When I first stood for Parliament with the Gibraltar National Party in 1996, I was a recently qualified 24 year old lawyer. I was then young and single and with few things to worry about.”
“By the time, I was asked to re-stand for Parliament with Sir Peter Caruana, in 2011, I was almost 40, married and with three young children, carrying particular demands.”
“I did so because their future was paramount in my mind. I felt it was the right thing for Gibraltar to ensure a further victory for the GSD, although, for a myriad of different reasons, it was not to be.”
“Needless to say, I was very disappointed, when I knew that by a mere handful of votes I would not be serving as a government minister, but as an Opposition MP.”
“Many of you will also recall that I stood for the leadership of the party when the position became vacant in early 2013.”
He explained that he thought he could bring a new and different approach to opposition politics and one which through greater and more effective connection with people, would have secured a better chance of victory.
“I am therefore no stranger to standing up for what I believe in when required,” Mr Bossino said.
One of the novel features of this leadership election is that the new leader could be a leader from outside the Parliament, he said expressing some doubt as to how that will effectively work in the important years which will lead up to the next general election.
“My decision does not mean that I set aside my views on a whole number of issues which affect us and neither does it mean that I will not seek in the future to re-enter public life.”
“My personal view is that our challenge is to adopt an honest, responsible and mature acknowledgement of our reality; one that accepts and could involve tough, unpopular positions, but where the long term interests of the many trump the interests of a few; where long term vision and so the correct and measured management of our affairs cannot be derailed by reactive and short-term approaches to policy driven purely by the electoral cycle.”
“Such a vision requires firm, brave, realistic and practical leadership – a leadership that is strong in the face of adversity; a leadership that does not seek the path of least resistance; nor a leadership that is guided purely by the latest global or local trends and ‘the here and now’”, he said.
“The late Margaret Thatcher is quoted as saying that ‘If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at anytime, and would achieve nothing.’”
“That is the challenge of our times, of our community and of our political leaders and I continue to believe that I will one day have the opportunity of making my contribution.”
“It is upon that hope and expectation that I conclude by re-expressing my gratitude to all for their support and encouragement, making my decision all the more difficult.”
“Whilst I now choose not to stand for the election of the GSD leadership, I remain committed to our community, which is so truly blessed and empowered by its people, and so I remain excited and confident about what the future may bring.”