Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had to cut his speech short during yesterday's mass meeting in Zebbug as his strained voice couldn't take him throughout the whole speech.
In a clear pitch for young and first-time voters, both Gonzi and his deputy leader Simon Busuttil urged young people to convey the PN's message and help the party win re-election.
A hoarse Gonzi gave a somewhat subdued speech to the thousands of PN supporters, in which the main message he drove was Labour's embarrassing revelation of having asked a police officer not to press charges against a former Attard committee member.
"While Labour ask the police to drop criminal cases for their own partisan interests, we have no fear in asking the police to investigate corruption," Gonzi said, referring to the secret recording in which Labour deputy leader Toni Abela is heard saying he sought out a police officer to drop charges against a club committee member, ostensibly because the matter was a civil case and not of a criminal nature.
While failing to reach a climax and carry the crowd in the same way he did in the PN's previous mass meeting in Mosta two weeks ago, Gonzi hammered home the message that the electorate had to choose between a "tried and tested safe pair of hands" and a Labour Party which "obstructed justice."
"Do not take anything for granted, it all depends on the capability of who is at the helm of the country," Gonzi said.
He added that Labour's true face was being uncovered, citing the secret recordings concerning Labour deputy leader Toni Abela.
In the recordings circulated through a sock puppet YouTube channel, Abela is heard talking about a drugs incident inside a Labour Party club and why he did not lodge a police report on the issue. Abela is also heard talking about sacking a person from a party club following reports of person cutting up a "white block" in the kitchen, the evidence of which appears to have been thrown into a rubbish tip by a club member who caught the suspects red-handed.
The recording appears to be part of the same one that was revealed in a courtroom by Richard Vella, formerly the operator of the PL's club bar in Attard, whom Abela also expelled from the party in 2010, and in which Abela is heard saying that he approached a Labourite police officer to stop the police from pressing charges.
As the crowd chanted "blokka l-bajda" Gonzi warned that in three weeks' time Abela, whom he insisted was guilty of obstructing justice and covering up drug use at a Labour club, could be involved in the running of government.
"If this is the change Labour is promising, we do not need this change, we do not want this change.
"Labour's deputy leader kept this case under wraps to protect the Labour Party. This is scandalous. To make things worse now Joseph Muscat is defending Abela. It is unacceptable to sideline the fight against drugs for partisan interests.
"For whoever is still weighing things up on who to vote for, this is the difference. The PN takes things seriously and takes immediate action to fight corruption while Labour brushes the fight against drugs aside for partisan interests."
In a direct appeal to undecided voters and the younger electorate, Gonzi said: "Labour's mask is coming off and what's behind it is rotten, I urge you to check what is behind the mask."
As the meeting edged towards its conclusion, chants of "Gonzi, Gonzi" gave the PN leader a much needed respite to recover his voice.
Boasting of the €1.12 billion EU funds obtained this month from the EU budget, Gonzi said the PN had a proven track record of putting the economy on a sound footing and create jobs for young people.
"All we have achieved is in the balance. Don't risk it, do not take anything for granted," he said.
As his voice waned away, Gonzi attempted to stir the crowd, saying: "Step by step, day after day, let us work together to win the election. Together everything is possible and everything will be made possible. Together we can win the 9 March election."
Speaking earlier, PN deputy leader Simon Busuttil, urged young and first time voters to spread the word and convince other young people that the PN is the only guarantee for a better future.
In a clear pitch for first time voters, Busuttil said: "more then ever before the country's future hinges on your vote."
The latest polls published by yesterday's edition of MaltaToday on Sunday show that the PN is not compensating its losses to Labour by making gains among new voters, as was clearly the case before the 2008 election. In fact among this category of first-time voters the PL enjoys a 13-point lead over the PN.
"Every vote counts... who stays home on 9 March will be leaving it up to others to decide for them. You all have the duty to vote," the PN deputy leader insisted.
Hailing the unprecedented €1.1 billion obtained in EU funds, to which the crowd responds by chanting "Thank you very much", Busuttil said: "How can we trust these funds to who was opposed to EU membership in the first place?
"The choice is between Joseph Muscat and Lawrence Gonzi," Busuttil added as he asked the crowd, "who do you want to trust your children's education, your family's health, your career? The choice will be done by casting your vote. Who wants to trust Lawrence Gonzi must vote PN and who does not want to take a risk on Joseph Muscat must also vote PN."
Turning to education, Busuttil urged students to vote PN because it was the only guarantee to provide and maintain stipends and the highest level of education. "If you vote for another party or stay at home you would be putting all at risk for no reason at all."