CM to assign ministerial portfolios in first Cabinet meeting
Gibraltar’s new government will hold its first Cabinet meeting at midday today in No.6 Convent Place, where ministerial portfolios and responsibilities will be assigned to each of the nine GSLP/Liberal ministers.
The Alliance secured its fourth consecutive term in office in the early hours of last Friday with a 1.9% lead over the GSD at the end of an intense and hotly contested general election.
The GSLP/Liberals won 49.9% of the vote, with the GSD securing 48% of votes giving it eight MPs in Opposition in Parliament.
Turnout was 76.41 percent, up from 70.84 percent during the last election in 2019.
It is the first time since the 2006 Constitution expanded the number of MPs that Parliament has a nine/eight split rather than the 10 government MPs and seven Opposition MPs that has been the norm in recent elections.
The government has four MPs who have served in office previously, alongside five newcomers.
Ministerial portfolios will be confirmed today but there were indications during the campaign as to what the newcomers can expect.
Nigel Feetham is tipped to take over from Albert Isola as Minister for Financial Services and Gaming, while Gemma Arias-Vasquez will be handed the health portfolio.
Pat Orfila is set to take on the housing ministry, while Christian Santos will be responsible for equality.
Liberal MP Leslie Bruzon is likely to be handed the sport portfolio.
The Alliance’s existing MPs – Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, Sir Joe Bossano and Dr John Cortes – are likely to retain their past ministerial portfolios, although there could be changes too, particularly in respect of subsidiary ministerial responsibilities.
The principal heads of department in the civil service will be in No.6 at midday, ready to greet their new ministers and accompany them to their respective ministries, where they will meet their staff.
Before that, each of the ministers will be handed a copy of the Ministerial Code and be briefed by Dr Garcia on its contents and their responsibilities in public office.
The one Alliance candidate who will not be present in No.6 Convent Place is the Liberal Party’s Vijay Daryanani, who served as a minister in the last parliament but failed to secure enough votes for a seat this time round.
On the opposition bench the GSD, led by Keith Azopardi, took eight seats in Parliament.
Mr Azopardi topped the GSD poll closely followed by Damon Bossino, Roy Clinton, Craig Sacarello, Edwin Reyes, Joelle Ladislaus, Giovanni Origo and Atrish Sanchez.
Youssef El Hana and Daniella Tilbury failed to secure a parliamentary seat.
Independent Social Democrat Robert Vasquez also missed out on a seat in Parliament.
Among the top priorities for Mr Picardo as he commences his fourth stint as Chief Minister is conclusion of the negotiation of the UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar’s future relations with the bloc.
There have been 14 formal rounds of negotiation to date, alongside countless preparatory meetings, and the negotiations are said to well advanced.
The issue was central to the Alliance election campaign, with Mr Picardo warning that talks on a deal would suffer a setback if the GSLP/Liberals were ousted from power.
Progress on the talks will have to wait however until Spain forms a new government following an inconclusive general election last July, in which the Partido Popular won the most votes but failed to secure a large enough majority in parliament to for government, even with the support of the far-right party Vox.
Spain’s socialist caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, is currently in negotiations to stitch together a coalition of left-leaning and smaller, independentist parties to support his bid for investiture in the coming weeks.
But the coalition hinges on the backing of Catalan party Junts per Catalunya and its fugitive leader Carles Puigdemont, whose demands in exchange for support include an amnesty for those facing charges following involved in the 2017 secessionist attempt.
Mr Sanchez has until November 27 to form government, after which Spain would have to repeat the general election.
In a victory speech early Friday morning, Mr Picardo signalled that Gibraltar was ready to conclude the agreement.
“Pedro, it is time now that you too should form a government, and together we should finish the treaty that we started,” he said.
Last Friday, just hours after Gibraltar finished the count and the Alliance was declared the winner, Mr Sanchez met with Junts and also became the first Spanish prime minister to hold formal talks with the Basque separatist party EH Bildu.