Therese Comodini Cachia could very well be sworn in as Opposition leader soon, and in so doing will make history as the first woman leader to hold that major Maltese constitutional office.
Not many people, most probably herself included, could have seen this coming up until a few hours ago but the political chaos that gripped her party has seen her catapulted to the top.
So who is the potential new Opposition leader?
Born in 1973, Comodini Cachia grew up in Birżebbuġa and graduated as a lawyer, specialising in human rights. As a lawyer, she represented several victims of human rights violations in Malta and Strasbourg and acted as a legal advisor for a number of human rights NGOs.
She has spoken out publicly in favour of migrants’ rights, telling MaltaToday in an interview in 2013 that the main obstacle for migration to Europe is “the sense of fear towards African, black migrants”.
“For those who know the facts this fear is clearly irrational. But people out there do not know the facts,” she said. “Many people out there believe that there are 16,000 immigrants living in Malta when we don’t. In reality we may have a maximum of 5,000 migrants. That is the problem.”
Her first foray in politics was in 2013, when she unsuccessfully contested the general election on the Nationalist Party ticket.
She remained involved with the PN after they were trashed at the polls, helping them draft a private members’ bill to increase safeguards against LGBT+ discrimination and representing the party in a constitutional case over disparities in the election vote-counting process.
Comodini Cachia became a household name in 2014, when she contested the European Parliament election and got elected by a narrow margin, the first time the PN won three MEP seats.
At Brussels, Comodini Cachia sat on a number of committees on behalf of the European People’s Party, where she notably acted as rapporteur for a controversial law to clamp down on copyright.
She also used her platform to continue speaking out in favour of migrants’ rights, once calling for all children born in Malta to automatically qualify for Maltese citizenship.
“It is the most inhumane thing possible for the government to leave children stateless. We are talking here about children who were born in Malta and who grew up in Malta. What makes them foreign?” she asked.
In January 2015, then PN leader Simon Busuttil appointed Comodini Cachia to his shadow Cabinet as shadow minister for education and employment, even though she was based in the European Parliament. She would later criticise Busuttil for his decision, arguing that she would often speak to parents and teachers but not be able to voice their concerns in Parliament.
She harshly criticised the American University of Malta deal, describing the project as a scam and warning the investor Sadeen was just after prime public land. When journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia found out that AUM was registered at the offices of Comodini Cachia’s husband’s financial services firm, she gave the MEP a ring and found out that she had no idea about it.
Comodini Cachia then called up Caruana Galizia and told her that her opinion of the AUM won’t change regardless of whether her husband’s office is involved. “Whatever my husband’s office involvement is, that is not going to change my opinion of the matter. I reacted immediately saying that I think it is a scam, a way of giving this man a large amount of public land in a prime area near the sea, and I shall continue to say so,” she said.
When then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called a snap election in 2017, Comodini Cachia answered Simon Busuttil’s call and contested on the eight district, where she successfully got elected, winning over 1,500 first-count votes.
However, moments after the results were confirmed, Comodini Cachia suddenly announced her intention to relinquish her new seat and keep her seat at the European Parliament.
This political gaffe led to widespread outrage among PN supporters, with many accusing her of favouring her considerable MEP salary over the needs of her own constituents. Comodini Cachia ended up reversing that decision, later stating that admitting her mistake was a courageous decision on her part.
When Delia took over the PN in 2017, Comodini Cachia was appointed spokesperson of culture and media, where her greatest achievement was proposing a bill to protect journalists against SLAPP lawsuits.
She was also extremely vocal following the assassination of Caruana Galizia, even joining the defence team of the murdered journalist’s family.
She wasn’t afraid to publicly criticise Delia throughout his tenure, once opposing his stance against a legal notice granting 100 hours of leave to same-sex couples seeking IVF treatment abroad. She also joined other PN MPs in voting in favour of a bill to protect victims of domestic violence, despite Delia warning it will be the first step towards the legalisation of abortion.
Earlier this year, Comodini publicly urged Delia to resign as PN and Opposition leader in the wake of a damning survey which showed he had failed to make any inroads with the electorate.
“I agree with each of my colleagues who spoke yesterday, and bar two we all did,” she said. “Yet, yesterday you failed to realise that the internal factions you are so paranoid about are now united to do what is in the best interest of the country and of the party. We all agreed that something is wrong with ‘tmexxija’ and that we need to plan an exit for you.”
“We all agreed that the best interests of the country need us to do this. None of us make this proposal with a smile on our face, we make it out of a need to restore our party and the country’s democracy.”
“Several reasons led to this failure; some you inherited, others you created and others were created for you. But a bold leader whose only interest is the general good recognises the moment when it is his time to forge ahead with a plan that sees him and his team move sideways.”
“Your answers to the press (given just last night after the parliamentary group meeting) simply show a complete disconnection between yourself, and the parliamentary group as reflecting factual reality out there. Your answers show a parallel reality which is fake and unsupported by facts.”
Comodini Cachia has never seriously been touted as a potential successor to Delia, with talk in PN circles often circling around the likes of Bernard Grech, Joe Giglio, Roberta Metsola and Mark Anthony Sammut. And it still remains unclear whether the majority of her fellow MPs will officially endorse her, whether she will also become PN leader and whether she will win a leadership race against Delia or other aforementioned names.
However, one should always expect the unexpected in politics and this new role will certainly give Comodini Cachia an element of incumbency, giving her the chance to truly leave her mark on Malta.
Do you agree with the choice of Therese Comodini Cachia as Opposition leader?