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MT 18 September 2016

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7 litical heavyweights who embodied the previous PN administration that was brutally voted out and new inexperienced MPs. A number of the heavyweights, including George Pullicino and Francis Zammit Dimech – who Busuttil already side-lined by giv- ing them minor roles within the shadow Cabinet – could be ex- pected to call it a day; others such as Charlò Bonnici have already declared that they will not seek re- election. However, other heavyweights such as former finance minis- ter Tonio Fenech, who is now a spokesperson on foreign policy, and Giovanna Debono who re- signed from the party but not from parliament in the works-for-votes scandal in Gozo, could tempt their fate and seek to reinvent them- selves. This worked out well for a num- ber of Labour MPs who served un- der Dom Mintoff in the 1970s and 1980s and still went on to form part of Muscat's Cabinet. Prior to the scandal involving her husband, Debono – who served as Gozo minister for 15 years – was set to call it a day but it is now thought that she is mulling re-election to redeem herself electorally. Busuttil also named a number of MEPs as shadow ministers, which means they could try their luck in national elections and swap their seat in Brussels with a new one in Valletta. But as shown by MEP David Ca- sa's dismal performance in the last general election, there's no guar- antee that Roberta Metsola and Therese Commodini Cachia will have an easy route to the Renzo Piano parliament in the Maltese capital. The PN has already approved 57 candidates, including former MPs and candidates and new faces. The list includes radio presenter Da- vid Thake and former MPs Edwin Vassallo and Michael Axiak. The new candidates, or at least some of them, are being given a lot of expo- sure by the party by having them address press conferences together with MPs. New and old battlegrounds When it comes to winning a seat in parliament, a candidate's worst enemy isn't the opposing party but colleagues contesting on the same ticket and the next election could see the birth of new rivalries. The exit of heavyweights and vet- erans will lead to hotly contested battles in a number of electoral districts and current MPs and new candidates have already set their eyes on filling in the available seats. In the first electoral district (Valletta-Floriana-Hamrun) Louis Grech's 5,600 votes will probably be up for grabs, and the ambi- tious and young Labour candidate Aaron Farrugia is among the can- didates vying for the deputy Prime Minister's seat. Another tantalising contest is set to be fought out in the fifth elec- toral district (Birzebbugia-Mar- saxlokk-Qrendi-Zurrieq-Mqabba). With some 10,000 Labour votes up for grabs following the exit of Karmenu Farrugia and Marlene Farrugia, this leaves ample room for a hotly contested battle. Justice minister Owen Bonnici, who was elected from the third district (Zejtun-Marsaskala) is thought to have set his eyes on a dual constituency that will include the fifth district. And former Na- tionalist MP Franco Debono has also publicly declared he wants to contest the district on Labour's ticket. After being appointed Law Com- missioner by the Labour adminis- tration, Debono openly criticised the current government and Owen Bonnici's justice reform. But now Debono, who effectively brought the former PN government down by breaking ranks in December 2013, is openly seeking an invita- tion from Muscat and has said: "I have street-leaders and local coun- cillors from the fifth district call- ing me on the phone, saying they would back me if I had to run." Other gruelling contests are ex- pected to take place in the ninth (Msida-San Gwann-Ta' Xbiex- Swieqi) and tenth (Sliema-St Ju- lian's-Gzira-Pembroke) districts. Thousands of votes would be available following exits of former ministers like George Pullicino, Francis Zammit Dimech and Leo Brincat. Environment minister Jose Her- rera and tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis are expected to contest the ninth district, setting a three-horse race alongside com- petitiveness minister Manuel Mal- lia. More votes will be up for grabs if PN leader Simon Busuttil decides to contest a different district. Gozo is also set for a tight battle, with PN leader Simon Busuttil among the candidates who could contest the thirteenth district, especially if Giovanna Debono decides against running, which would also pave the way for former PN secretary- general Chris Said to cement his authority there. In the red corner, three Labour stalwarts, Anton Refalo, Justyne Caruana and Franco Mercieca are all vying to outperform one anoth- er, not only to retain Labour's slim majority in the crucial district but also to possibly lay claim on the Gozo ministry. maltatoday, SUNDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2016 News SOON ON TVM For advertising on XTRA contact Claire Ciantar on: Aaron Farrugia: his 'new era' slogan reflects his ambitious political will 'PN prepared for election' CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 THE resounding vote rekindles debate on the ramifications of the Panama Papers for Mizzi, who is still expecting an external audit to be completed on his financial affairs, and for Joseph Muscat as his government prepares to take on the EU presidency in 2017. "Mizzi's and Schembri's con- tinued presence in Castille is in- creasing the damage every day," Busuttil said yesterday. "And this was evident during Toni Abela's and Leo Brincat's hearing. If the Prime Minister persists with his wrong decision to keep them, people will only have one option left, and that is to vote Muscat out of office in the general elec- tion." Busuttil yesterday told PN sup- porters he was convinced he can beat Prime Minister Joseph Mus- cat in the next general election, citing that he had already beat him during the 2003 referendum for Malta's accession to the Euro- pean Union. At the time, Busuttil was head of the Malta-EU Information Centre, which was the chief in- formation unit for all EU infor- mation released to the public be- fore the 2003 referendum. "I've already beat him once; I can do it again," Busuttil told Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzo- pardi during a political activity at the Granaries in Floriana, where the PN was celebrating its annual Independence celebrations. "My weapon then was simple: bringing the truth to the public and it is that same weapon which will lead me to win again." Busuttil also claimed that ru- mours were going round of a pos- sible election this November. "We have to be prepared for anything because we want to be ready for any campaign, when- ever it comes. We are in this to win it," he said. Earlier, when directly asked whether he believed that an elec- tion was imminent, Busuttil re- plied that it was the Prime Min- ister's prerogative to decide when to call an election "but the PN will not be caught unprepared". A government source who spoke to MaltaToday earlier on had already remarked that it was likely that Mizzi would not at- tend a hearing before the Panama committee. EU member states have in fact been advised by the Council of Ministers' legal service that MEPs could not assume upon themselves the power of the Eu- ropean Commission to ask mem- ber states on how they have en- force taxation rules, unless they had clear allegations of contra- ventions or proof of maladmin- istration. Busuttil yesterday defended the PN's 'cedoli' loan scheme, which has reportedly generated some €3 million. On the criticism that it was a secret scheme, Busuttil said the scheme offered loans, as opposed to grants. "Let's talk about Egrant," Bu- suttil said, diverting the question. "The company which no one knows to whom it belongs," he said, referring to a shelf company set up by Nexia BT through Mos- sack Fonseca, which was named in connection to offshore compa- nies set up for the Prime Minis- ter's chief of staff Keith Schembri and minister Konrad Mizzi. "We know what 'grant' means and 'E' can easily stand for elec- tions," Busuttil suggested. "I don't engage in dirty politics." TV presenter Salvu Mallia, who was invited by Busuttil to address the activity, said he wanted to see Busuttil elected prime minister because he was a true "gentle- man". "I voted Labour because I be- lieved in Joseph Muscat's prom- ises. The PN sent a lot of people running straight into his arms but after I tasted what Muscat had to offer, I realized that it was only offered empty promises."

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