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Four new faces in Parliament

Newly-elected Labour MP Owen Bonnici, who becomes the youngest MP in Parliament, with MLP deputy leader for party affairs Michael Falzon. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

Newly-elected Labour MP Owen Bonnici, who becomes the youngest MP in Parliament, with MLP deputy leader for party affairs Michael Falzon. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

Four newcomers and four former ministers were among those elected in yesterday's 12 casual elections held to fill seats vacated by candidates elected from two districts.

The newcomers are former Żebbuġ councillor Philip Mifsud, elected from the seventh district filling the seat vacated by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando; Stephen Spiteri, elected to fill the seat vacated by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi on the second district; and Attard deputy mayor Charlo Bonnici on the 11th district, filling the seat vacated by Tonio Borg for the Nationalist Party; and Owen Bonnici, elected on the third district to fill the seat vacated by Helena Dalli, for the Labour Party.

Mr Mifsud, a 37-year-old architect, has been a councillor since 1999 but gambled on winning a parliamentary seat this year. In fact, he did not contest the council election in his locality. He said he believed his new position meant more responsibility towards the country and his district.

Dr Spiteri, a 41-year-old doctor, was elected on the first count as he was the only candidate contesting the vacant seat.

He thanked the Prime Minister for giving up the seat on the second district, thus giving him the opportunity to make it to Parliament. As an MP, he would now continue to serve the people, something he has been doing since he became a doctor.

He promised to work hard for the people in his district to be appreciated more and for others to understand the problems these people were facing. He also promised to work for the PN to become stronger in the second district.

Mr Bonnici, who was Net Television's first head of programmes and who served as chairman of the Maltasong Festival for a number of years, said that, as an MP, he wanted to be the people's representative and he would work to be so. Mr Bonnici emerged victorious yesterday after a very tight race with former MP Michael Asciak. This was the first general election he contested. He promised five years of work for the good of the people.

Dr Bonnici, who, at 27, is the youngest MP in this legislature, vowed to be a good parliamentarian. He said that he was elected at a time when change was taking place within his party. "I want to work towards much-needed change. I will take my parliamentary role very seriously and I will continue to take care of my constituency."

The former Nationalist ministers elected are Ċensu Galea, elected on the 12th district to fill the seat vacated by Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, and Michael Frendo, on the 10th district, filling the seat vacated by Education Minister Dolores Cristina.

Mr Galea promised to work hard in the district as a backbencher for the good of his constituents, utilising the experience he had gained in his previous posts.

Dr Frendo expressed his satisfaction at the result saying that, although the first count had given a good indication that he would be elected, one could never be sure until the election was over.

The former Labour ministers who made it to Parliament in yesterday's casual elections were Joe Debono Grech, the most senior MP in this legislature, taking the seat vacated by former party leader Alfred Sant, and Gavin Gulia, who is filling the seat vacated by MLP acting leader Charles Mangion on the sixth district.

Mr Debono Grech thanked his canvassers, especially his children, and his constituents, who had expressed confidence in him for the sixth time. If he managed to complete his parliamentary term, he would have spent a total of 42 years in Parliament.

Dr Gulia, who initially had said he would not contest the casual election as he intended to run for MLP deputy leader for party affairs, confirmed yesterday he would still be contesting the post since there was nothing in the party's statute that precluded an MP from doing so.

The other MPs elected yesterday were Joseph Cuschieri on the 10th district, filling the seat vacated by Labour MP Evarist Bartolo; Joe Falzon in the ninth district, for the seat vacated by Nationalist MP Robert Arrigo; Joe Sammut, filling the seat vacated by Labour MP George Vella on the fifth district and Chris Agius who filled the seat vacated by MLP deputy leader Michael Falzon on the second district.

Mr Falzon described Parliament as a beautiful experience which gave one the opportunity to promote the vision of one's country in international fora. He thanked all his constituents including those who did not vote for him.

Mr Cuschieri was the MLP's spokesman for tourism, hotels and Air Malta during the last legislature. Dr Sammut expressed his satisfaction that, as an MP, he could now be part of the team that could lead the Labour Party to a victory at the next election.

Mr Agius was, in the past five years, his party's main spokesman for industry and public investments.

Former parliamentary secretary Tony Abela and former MPs Franco Galea and Michael Asciak, all PN candidates, and Rita Law (MLP) failed to get elected.

Mrs Law pointed out that she started out at a disadvantage in the third district because the contest for the fifth seat in the general election was between herself and Ms Dalli. Ms Dalli won the seat because she had more votes than her but neither of the candidates reached the quota. Hence, Mrs Law's votes were not transferred; had that happened it could have helped her in yesterday's casual election because those votes that would have gone to Ms Dalli would have "returned" to her yesterday.

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