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Simon Busuttil wins PN leadership contest
Current PN deputy leader Simon Busuttil set to become PN leader after winning 50,3% of the vote in first round.
4 May 2013, 12:00am
Simon Busuttil is set to become the new PN leader after winning 50.3%,or 451 votes out of 897 votes cast, in the first round of the party's leadership contest.
Mario de Marco came second with 38.5% (345 votes) of the vote, while Francis Zammit Dimech got 6% (54) and outsider Ray Bugeja came in last with 5.2% (47).
Although Busuttil still needs to be officially confirmed leader by the party councillors on Wednesday, the concession of defeat by de Marco and Zammit Dimech effectively means that Busuttil is the leader elect.
Speaking on NET TV minutes after the first part of the PN general council was over, Busuttil, said that the party had turned a new chapter and said that it was an emotional moment for him.
While describing the other contestants as gentlemen, Busuttil said "the party must rebuild itself and prepare itself for the next challenges, starting with the European Parliament elections." He added that the PN must also ensure that it is a strong Opposition party.
"Firstly we need to change our style and being in Opposition gives us more freedom to be close to the people. We have to go to the people ourselves. As leader I have to be the first to knock on people's doors and approach to the people," Busuttil said.
Former MEP Simon Busuttil, 44, will be the seventh PN leader in the party's history and he is expected to address the party councillors on Wednesday, where he needs to be confirmed with two-thirds of the councillors votes.
The three other contestants addressed the PN councillors gathered at the PN headquarters in Pieta and found tim e to share a few thoughts with the media.
Addressing the press, de Marco said: "This is the time for unity more than contestation. More than anything else this is a moment of closure and we need to move ahead and become a strong and serious Opposition."
De Marco, Zammit Dimech and Bugeja ruled out contesting any other roles in the party but said they were ready to serve the party in whatever role they are given. Additionally Bugeja said he was prepared to "serve like a CEO but not as a CEO."
Busuttil won the support of half of the 901 PN councillors, enjoying a wafer thin lead of six votes over the other three candidates put together. Outsider Ray Bugeja was automatically eliminated from the race, while Zammit Dimech pulled out of the race after coming in third.
Despite coming second, Mario de Marco pulled out of the race, effectively ending the leadership contest and handing over the PN's leadership to Simon Busuttil.
"I have always been thought to bow down to the will of the majority," de Marco said, as the PN councillors applauded him. He added that the time for contestation was over and "now it is the time for renewal and unity."
Reaching out to Simon Busuttil who was sitting beside him, de Marco said: "I urge all councillors to come here on Wednesday and vote for Simon as I will be doing. I pledge my unconditional loyalty and support to our party, to our new leader," de Marco said.
De Marco thanked the PN councillors and described the four week campaign as an enlightening experience in which he met with people from all walks of life.
He also thanked the councillors from the south of the country who de Marco said remained strong despite being in a minority in their territories, while saying that the Gozo councillors remain the soul of the party.
In what might be Lawrence Gonzi's last address, the outgoing leader said that the PN is "back on track to return to being a winning party."
"This is the time for the party to strengthen itself and unite under the guidance of a new leader," Gonzi said.
"I thank all those who were by my side in the past years who helped me write more golden chapters in the party's illustrious history. What the country has earned is down to your efforts and not to mine."
He thanked outgoing secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier for serving the party loyally during difficult the difficult five years.
The leadership contest showed that the party had the necessary capital to return to its best, Gonzi said.
He thanked all four contestants and said that Busuttil had sacrificed a lot for the party, adding that Busuttil will offer hard work and integrity.
In thanking de Marco, the former Prime Minister said: "Mario showed that above everything else he is a gentleman."
Ray Bugeja thanked outgoing leader Lawrence Gonzi and the rest of the party which welcomed him, adding "I am proud of the party, I am proud of our future and I will stay put to make my part for the party."
In conceding defeat, a visibly emotional Francis Zammit Dimech said that he had submitted his nomination out of a sense of duty.
"Out of respect towards all of you here, I concede defeat and I do this is wholeheartedly and with a determination to serve the next leader loyally. My loyalty means that I am ready to serve in all ways the party leader and to the party which I am proud of," Zammit Dimech said.
In thanking Lawrence Gonzi, Zammit Dimech said that the former Prime Minister had always put the national interest ahead of everything else. He went on to thank the councillors and the other three contenders.
897 PN councillors out of the 901 eligible voters cast their vote in yesterday's leadership contest.
In order to get elected in the first round one of the four contestants needed to obtain 598 votes, however since none of the candidates reached the threshold a second round will be held on Wednesday to seal Busuttil's victory.
The vote counting process started at 9:20pm, with the first indications clearly showing that the front runners Mario de Marco and Simon Busuttil led the race.
The PN voted for a new leader after former Prime Minister and current PN leader Lawrence Gonzi announced he would not be seeking reelection to the post.
Gonzi has also hinted he would be giving up his seat in parliament.
The deputy leadership election is to be held on 25 May while the new secretary-general is set to be elected by the PN executive in June.
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