Simon Busuttil favourite for succession

Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil emerges as the front runner to succeed Lawrence Gonzi as PN leader. Tourism Minister Mario de Marco follows in second place.

James Debono
12 March 2012, 12:00am
Simon Busuttil and Mario de Marco are among the favourites to succeed current PN leader Lawrence Gonzi.
Simon Busuttil and Mario de Marco are among the favourites to succeed current PN leader Lawrence Gonzi.

The first initiative announced by Lawrence Gonzi following his confirmation as party leader was to appoint MEP Simon Busuttil as his special envoy to organise meetings with different economic and social sectors of society to listen to their thoughts and concerns.

The meetings would be organised through the party's AŻAD foundation, which Simon Busuttil presently chairs.

Although Busuttil has laughed off suggestions that Dr Gonzi's decision to entrust him with the job could be interpreted as a signal that he was the preferred contender in a future leadership race, the move increased speculation on the succession to the PN's top post.

In this context MaltaToday has asked PN voters whom they would like to see as Lawrence Gonzi's successor. Since no candidate has announced his interest in the post, no list of possible candidates was presented to respondents who were free to mention any name which came to their mind.

Significantly, Simon Busuttil emerges as the front-runner among both current PN voters and among respondents who voted PN in 2008. 

While 30% of current PN voters opted for Busuttil, 26% of PN voters in 2008 opted for the 42-year old MEP.

Environment Minister Mario de Marco emerges as the only rival with a significant following to challenge a future bid by Busuttil, with a following of 13% among current PN voters and a 9% following among those who voted PN in 2008.

The 47-year old de Marco was chosen as the best performing Cabinet member in a MaltaToday survey published in October.

Among current PN voters, the party's Deputy Leader Tonio Borg is the third most favourite candidate followed by Finance Minister Tonio Fenech.

Surprisingly, among those who voted PN in 2008 (a segment which includes those who presently would vote for other parties or are still undecided), backbench rebel Debono comes in third place.

Two per cent of current PN voters and three per cent of PN voters in 2008 mentioned former Finance Minister John Dalli, Gonzi's contender in the 2004 leadership race.

In a clear indication that the race has not yet started 36% of current PN voters could not mention a name.

James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...