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De Marco, Said not expected to contest - Seven ministers back Fenech

Seven minister have backed Tonio Fenech.

Seven minister have backed Tonio Fenech.

Ministers Mario de Marco and Chris Said are not expected to contest the Nationalist Party’s deputy leader election, according to sources.

This means the November 29 election is likely to be a two-horse race between MEP Simon Busuttil, who first declared his intentions, and Finance Minister Tonio Fenech.

Mr Fenech yesterday released a nomination list showing he is supported by seven Cabinet members, including Dr de Marco and Dr Said.

Ministers Jason Azzopardi, Giovanna Debono and Dolores Cristina and Parliamentary Secretaries Mario Galea and Clyde Puli have also lent their support to the 43-year-old Finance Minister, as did MPs Charlo Bonnici, Robert Arrigo and Beppe Fenech Adami. A total of 138 voting councillors have endorsed Mr Fenech’s nomination, including a number of candidates and councillors.

“I believe the nomination list shows I have a broad base of support from people with different views who feel they can work with me in the best interest of the Nationalist Party,” Mr Fenech told The Sunday Times.

The party statute states that the 900 Nationalist councillors who vote in the deputy leadership election may endorse the nomination of other contenders, though few choose to do so.

Party insiders who spoke to The Sunday Times said that the backing received by Mr Fenech effectively dismissed claims that the upcoming election would be an easy ride for Dr Busuttil.

Asked whether he feared the party machinery would lobby for Dr Busuttil’s election, especially since he was appointed as the Prime Minister’s special delegate, Mr Fenech said: “The Prime Minister has tasked Simon with the important role of a creating a structured dialogue with civil society.

“During the past nine years the Prime Minister has entrusted me with the responsibility of managing the country’s economy and finances, creating jobs and to lead a number of difficult reforms such as the introduction of the euro and the restructuring of Air Malta.

“I can assure you there is no party machinery pushing any candidate and the Prime Minister has already been very clear that he wants an open and fair contest.”

‘Two-horse’ race to be PN deputy

Mr Fenech said he was encouraged to throw his hat into the ring after positive news emerged last week that the European Commission had lifted the sanctions’ threat over the deficit.

The upcoming Budget is expected to be presented in the week of the PN’s contest, giving Mr Fenech the maximum political exposure.

“I’ve worked with ministers for a number of years and they are aware of my capabilities.

“Ultimately, both Simon and I have our fair share of political capabilities and achievements and there will be nothing less than friendship between the two of us.”

Dr Busuttil’s nomination for the Nationalist Party deputy leader contest is so far endorsed by 26 party members, including former European Commissioner Joe Borg, Health Minister Joe Cassar, party Whip David Agius, the president of the PN’s administrative committee, Karol Aquilina, MP Jean Pierre Farrugia and young MPs Karl Gouder and Joseph Falzon.

The winner will replace Tonio Borg, who quit as PN deputy leader after the Prime Minister nominated him to replace John Dalli as Malta’s European Commissioner.

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