Clinton says he will not contest GSD leadership, as party confirms election timeline
GSD MP Roy Clinton on Wednesday ruled himself out of the party’s leadership election ahead of the Friday deadline for registration of candidates.
Mr Clinton, who contested the last leadership vote in 2017 and lost to Keith Azopardi, said he would not publicly endorse any of the candidates, urging other GSD MPs past and present to do the same.
So far, only Mr Azopardi and fellow MP Damon Bossino have publicly confirmed they will contest the party leadership.
Mr Clinton’s announcement came as the GSD confirmed the timeline for the election, which will take place early December.
Under the party’s constitution, a leader who loses an election must be revalidated – or replaced – within a year.
Mr Azopardi triggered the leadership election quickly, arguing it was important to have clarity and stability going forward.
The election is by weighted voting, with 40% of the vote earmarked for the executive and 60% for the membership.
Voting by executive members will take place at a meeting in party headquarters on December 4, but the result of that vote will be known only to GSD MP Edwin Reyes, who has been appointed returning officer to oversee the process, and a small team assisting him.
On December 5, a meeting will be held at 6pm in the John Mackintosh Hall at which members will be able to vote. There will also be other opportunities to vote that will be explained in a letter to members that will be sent shortly, including for those who cannot attend the meeting.
Under the party’s constitution: “Eligibility to vote shall be limited to those who have been members of the party for not less than two years before the date that the election of the leader takes place and are not less than sixteen years of age.”
The result of the two votes will be announced after a count at the end of that meeting.
In announcing his decision, Mr Clinton said he wanted to focus on his work on public finances and that combining this with leadership responsibilities was not feasible.
“I can today confirm that after giving the matter careful consideration, that I will not be putting my name forward for the 2023 GSD leadership election,” Mr Clinton said in a personal statement issued Wednesday morning.
“I have reached this decision on the basis that at present I believe that I can best serve the electorate and the party by retaining my focus on the public finances of Gibraltar which continue to be of grave concern.”
Mr Clinton contested a leadership election in 2017 but lost to Mr Azopardi.
At the time, he conducted a high-profile campaign from an office rented for that purpose, but his hopes took a blow when former Chief Minister and GSD political heavyweight, Sir Peter Caruana, said he would back Mr Azopardi.
For Mr Clinton, that had been a matter of “deep regret”.
On Wednesday, Mr Clinton said he would not be publicly endorsing any candidates in the leadership contest, urging current and past MPs to do the same.
“I will not be canvassing for any candidates that may put their name forward this Friday and would suggest that fellow MPs and former parliamentary colleagues or indeed past party leaders refrain from endorsing candidates publicly with a view to influencing the executive and the membership vote,” he said.
“The election process is a private one and there is no need to express personal opinions publicly.”
“I would urge candidates to adopt a positive approach to their campaigns so as to set out their vision for the party.”
After he issued his statement, Mr Clinton said his concern was that publicly expressed endorsements could have “a disproportionate influence” and detract from what should be “a battle of ideas”.
“This is about the party’s future and the candidates have to be allowed a fair hearing,” he said.
The public interest in the contest, however, means the prospect of MPs past and present remaining silent seems unlikely. One MP, Craig Sacarello, has already said he will back Mr Azopardi.
In any event, nothing would prevent them from expressing their views if they wished to do so.
“There’s no rule that stops them from doing so,” Mr Reyes told the Chronicle.
In his statement, Mr Clinton also issued a call for party unity, playing down reports by “political observers” of differences within the party, even though these have been acknowledged by the two leadership candidates themselves.
Mr Azopardi, for example, has spoken of a “chasm” between him and Mr Bossino, who he said would take a more “rigidly conservative” approach to his “modern, centrist, progressive” stance.
Mr Bossino, conversely, has said Mr Azopardi lacks the “essential connectivity” to enthuse the wider community and attract more votes, and that he is using similar language in criticising his rival to that deployed by the GSLP/Liberals in exchanges with the Opposition.
Mr Clinton sought to focus on what united the candidates rather than what divided them.
“I know there are common values and beliefs that unite all GSD members,” Mr Clinton said.
“There is therefore much more that binds us than any perception of differences that political observers have sought to suggest.”
“This unity of purpose is vital given our role to act not just as an Opposition but also as a party ready and able to provide an alternative Government.”
“For the present, the electorate expect the GSD to hold the Government to account more so given the very narrow Government majority, and any future GSD leader must maintain and build upon our strength of purpose to deliver on that expectation.”
Further details in respect of the December 5 meeting and voting arrangements will be sent to all members during this week, the GSD said.
“In the meantime, if any member wishes to check they are on the draft electoral roll for the leadership election they can do so by visiting the GSD office in College Lane,” the party said in a statement.
“Further information may be obtained from Edwin Reyes (email: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or mobile: 56217000) whom the Executive Committee has appointed as Returning Officer for Party Leader Election purposes.”