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Marlene Hassan Nahon will not contest next election and plans to leave frontline politics 'for now'

Marlene Hassan Nahon, the Leader of Together Gibraltar, announced on Wednesday that she would not be standing at the next general election and will step back from frontline politics, “at least for now”.

Speaking at the party’s headquarters, Ms Hassan Nahon said she was saddened by the decision but acknowledged her brand of politics, focused on “transparency, honesty, empathy, equality in diversity and social justice”, had failed to gain traction in a “worrisome” political environment “made toxic by mindless partisanship and polarisation”.

She said she had tried to rally “neglected sectors” of society to bring the voices of ordinary citizens to the fore and attract their energy to Together Gibraltar.

“But the fact is the support and the love I receive from our people on a daily basis has not translated into activists and candidates ready to take on the mission to transform our politics, and that is a hard reality that must be faced honestly and responsibly,” she said.

“I do not have the strength to continue to take on this fight as a lone opposition voice, and I feel that, as it stands today, TG cannot bring that transformative, positive change Gibraltar urgently needs.”

“It is time for me to make way for others who might have the strength and the ability to fight this corner more successfully than I have over the last few years.”

Ms Hassan Nahon said she would step down as Leader of the party in the coming months but would remain as an MP until the next election, thereby avoiding a by-election.

She hopes to pursue other career opportunities and focus on her family, but said too that she would continue to advocate for positive change and to support those who are working to make Gibraltar a better place.

She spoke of her pride at having put a spotlight on issues faced by everyday people and on promoting progressive policies from her seat in Parliament.

And she did not rule out a return to politics at some stage in the future if the circumstances and timing were right.

“Maybe one day and with our support, others may succeed where I have not,” she said.

“Stepping down from active politics does not mean giving up on this community, but re-entering a lifelong commitment to fight for a better Gibraltar from the trenches of active and responsible citizenship.”

The bombshell decision dramatically changes the political landscape ahead of the next general election.

TG had been in discussion with the GSD about presenting a joint front when Gibraltar goes to the polls later this year, a move aimed at ensuring the Opposition vote was not split to the benefit of the GSLP/Liberals.

But Ms Hassan Nahon said she could not sign up to an alliance with the GSD “at this stage”, pointing to “deep philosophical, ideological and policy differences” between the two parties.

“Despite recognising that Keith Azopardi has taken on the task of renewing and reforming the GSD in earnest, I´m afraid that there are still at this stage deep philosophical, ideological and policy differences between myself and the GSD,” she said.

“And despite having on occasion over the years, mutually collaborated on issues with my opposition GSD colleagues, and having great respect for their positions on certain issues, I cannot bring myself to sacrifice my integrity and principles and ally myself with another party whose general direction on the political spectrum is so different from mine.”

A key question now is whether TG will continue once its charismatic leader, whose personal identity as an MP is intimately linked to that of her party, steps back.

If the party decides that it can field candidates at the next election, some sort of alliance with the GSD may yet be on the cards.

Alternatively, there may be a drift from TG to the GSD for some of the stronger candidates who harbour aspirations of active participation in public life.

In practice, that second outcome could mark the end of a party that started life as a civic movement bubbling with energy and the promise of change.

It would also raise the question of where TG’s voting block – Ms Hassan Nahon was the most voted Opposition MP at the last general election – would shift at the polls.

Ms Hassan Nahon, who made the announcement surrounded by members of the TG executive, said it was too early to say how this might unfold, adding these were decisions that the party executive and its membership would have to take in the coming weeks and months.

“I accept that the limelight has been on me very much for being a lone MP within the party, but don't forget that Together Gibraltar has always been a horizontal platform and I trust the executive to take the necessary steps for handover and for a continuity that obviously will have to happen,” she said.

“I trust the party to take the necessary decisions and I will stand behind them as long as they continue the progressive route that we have always taken.”

Reacting to the development, both the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, and Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the GSD and Leader of the Opposition, praised Ms Hassan Nahon for her contribution to public life over recent years.

“Firstly, I want to thank Marlene Hassan Nahon for her important and brave contribution to Gibraltar politics,” Mr Picardo said.

“We have disagreed on much and agreed on important matters.”

“The things we have agreed on have been the big things that matter and we have even campaigned together on progressive issues that have shaped and will continue to shape our society.”

Mr Picardo also reflected on the impact of Ms Hassan Nahon’s decision to leave frontline politics on the political landscape ahead of the next election.

“The retirement of Ms Hassan Nahon leaves the GSLP Liberals as the only progressive, socialist and liberal option at the next election,” the Chief Minister said.

“The alternative is the GSD who clearly represent conservative and backward looking policies, whatever their current leader may say.”

“The public will know that the choice will now be between the party that delivered equalised ages of consent, civil partnerships, equal marriage and equality across the board, the GSLP Liberals, or the GSD that has stood in the way of every progressive policy we have presented for the modernisation and development of our community, not least the abortion referendum.”

“I welcome the potential now for a clear straight fight at the coming general election between a progressive GSLP Liberal coalition and the conservative, backward looking, unambitious GSD.”

Mr Azopardi said Ms Hassan Nahon’s departure from politics would be a loss for Gibraltar.

“She brought a unique passion and connection to people that is so important,” he said on Twitter.

“I know her personal decision was so very hard and her statement speaks of her personal belief in change which we share.”

“I hope to see her back one day. She still has much to give to Gibraltar.”

“Many of her concerns are also my concerns for the future.”

“There’s so much to do to get Gibraltar back on track.”

“But I firmly believe there’s hope on the horizon and we can deliver the change people want to see.”

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