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Busuttil wins, says contest rekindled enthusiasm in the PN

Updated 10.50 p.m.

New PN Deputy Leader Simon Busuttil said this evening that the deputy leadership election had served to rekindle interest and enthusiasm in the Nationalist Party.

Speaking soon after beating Finance Minister Tonio Fenech at the first hurdle with 72.4% of the vote, Dr Busuttil said he would do everything possible to repay the confidence shown in him by the party councillors.

He also paid tribute to the previous holders of the post during his lifetime, Censu Tabone, Guido de Marco, Lawrence Gonzi and Tonio Borg. He also praised Louis Galea for the social vision he had instilled in him, and Eddie Fenech Adami for his vision of European Malta.

Dr Busuttil said he would work alongside Lawrence Gonzi for the PN to win the forthcoming general election.

The party, he said, needed to regain the people’s confidence. It needed to seek out those who had distanced themselves from the party or felt sidelined from it.

The PN, he said, was not the party of the councillors, but the party of the people. It had its doors open to everyone. It listened to everyone, it was a popular, not populist party. It was a party built on unity in diversity.

Dr Busuttil   urged the councillors to help Dr Gonzi and himself to lead the PN to another electoral win.   They should all work to convince the people that they should not put the country’s achievements in jeopardy in the next election.

The people needed to be convinced that the PN remained full of ideas, energy and determination. The people needed to be convinced that if they wanted change, the best change was through the PN. This was a responsibility which all the members of the party should shoulder.

All should be proud to be Maltese and European and voters should also be proud to be voting PN.

“Let us fill ourselves with hope, courage, enthusiasm, and determination and let us all believe once that together we can win again,” Dr Busuttil concluded, to applause.

 GONZI: PN IS THE AGENT OF CHANGE

Dr Gonzi said the contest showed once more than the PN was the agent of change. He said the contest had been held between two brilliant candidates who made the party proud.

The party showed how it was endowed by politicians who were prepared to give their all for the country.

He praised Tonio Fenech for giving and continuing to give his maximum to the country with great sacrifice. He thanked him for his commitment, loyalty, enthusiasm and also the Budget. He had managed to produce a Budget which even the Leader of the Opposition had taken on board, something which was very rare, he said.

He congratulated Dr Busuttil and said the contest had strengthened the PN. Dr Busuttil had already given a lot to the country, before Malta joined the EU and since, especially in the European Parliament but also in the last general election and in the five years since.

Dr Gonzi also thanked Tonio Borg, who had served as deputy leader since 2004 until stepping down when he was nominated European Commissioner. The country, he said, was proud of him.

This, Dr Gonzi said, was a chapter which was closed. The party was now prepared for the electoral campaign which should lead it to victory.

“We have a long road ahead, a major challenge. It will not be easy, but we have the achievements to show that we deserve to win the general election,” Dr Gonzi said.

Malta’s families in seeing their children develop within the education system should be told that it was only through the PN that they could have peace of mind about their children’s future. This was the party which had brought change and would continue to change the country for the better.

“We have now started a new chapter, a chapter of responsible choices which will again put the PN in government. With your help, we will do everything which is possible for our country, our workers, our children...the PN is ready to again shoulder the responsibility of running the country,” Dr Gonzi said.

TONIO FENECH: ‘PROUD TOBE NATIONALIST’

Earlier, there was cheering in the hall as the election result was officially announced by the chairman of the electoral commission, Foreign Minister Francis Zammit Dimech.

Dr Busuttil and Mr Fenech hugged each others as the councillors sang Nazzjonalisti, Nazzjonalisti.

In remarks  preceded by long applause, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech said these had been pleasant but intensive four weeks which led him to understand how big the party was, what a lot it had to offer the country, and that the councillors genuinely loved their party.

Many councillors had admitted to him that they had a difficult choice. Eventually, the majority had opted for his friend Simon.

Mr Fenech promised that he would continue to work hard for the party. The best aspect of this contest, he said, was that both Dr Busuttil and himself had kept this race a contest between friends, a process which unified this party. They would both work together with Lawrence Gonzi for the PN to win the forthcoming elections, he said. For, as the contest showed, this was a party which was much younger than the Labour Party.

“I am proud to be a Nationalist,” Mr Fenech concluded.

In his first address as deputy leader, Dr Busuttil thanked Mr Fenech and all those who had participated in the vote, saying there were no winners and losers and the PN had triumphed.

“We have rekindled the interest and enthusiasm in the PN,” he said to applause.

BUSUTTIL WINS TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY

Simon Busuttil  obtained 640 votes, 72.4 per cent of the votes cast.

Applause and cheering broke out as the result was announced at the PN headquarters.

Dr Busuttil was congratulated by party leader Lawrence Gonzi and Mr Fenech  and they walked together to the main hall.

Dr Busuttil had projected himself as a relatively new face in the PN and the best chance for the party to pick up momentum for the general election.

Meanwhile, Mr Fenech had projected himself as having a proven track record. He had enjoyed the support of the majority of Cabinet ministers.

The candidates cast their votes at the PN headquarters in Pieta this morning, as they wished each other good luck.

Both candidates said the would keep working for the PN, irrespective of who won the race this evening.

Sources close to the party said there was a lot of last-minute lobbying  from both camps, especially from the Finance Minister's supporters. Two backbenchers - Philip Mifsud and Stephen Spiteri - wrote on their Facebook walls dissociating themselves from text messages which claimed they were urging councillors to vote for Mr Fenech.

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