Updated | PN and PD to field 110 candidates • Busuttil shrugs off Egrant 'responsibility'

Simon Busuttil welcomes former government whip Godfrey Farrugia, pledges ‘a force that works for the nation’ • Busuttil refuses to state whether he would shoulder responsibility if Egrant allegations turn out to be false

PN leader Simon Busuttil presents the candidates
PN leader Simon Busuttil presents the candidates

Additional reporting by Stefan Paul Galea and Yannick Pace

Together, the Nationalist Party and the Democratic Party will be fielding a total of 110 candidates: 99 candidates fielded by the PN and 11 candidates fielded by the PD. The 110 candidates will run on the PN ticket.

Addressing a joint media conference with PD leader Marlene Farrugia, with the candidates – including Godfrey Farrugia – sitting behind them, PN leader Simon Busuttil said that 60% were first-time candidates, 20% were under 35 years of age whilst a quarter were women.

“I must admit that I am not happy with the number of women contesting because I believe the percentage could have been higher but we all know that it’s already difficult to encourage persons to run for elections,” he said, adding a PN government would give women a bigger platform.

This, Busuttil added, would include the introduction of measures which will see half of each public board composed of women.

In his opening comments, Busuttil said that it had been his dream to transform the PN into “a people’s party” once again. Today, he added, this dream had become a reality and the PN was home to people of goodwill who loved the country.

An emotional Godfrey Farrugia is welcomed by the PN whip David Agius
An emotional Godfrey Farrugia is welcomed by the PN whip David Agius

“Trust is not something you ask for but something you work for. This national force is standing before you determined to work for you, beyond the 3 June election,” he said.

“This is not an election where the winner takes it all but electing those who are ready to compromise, and not dictate. This national force is asking for your consensus and support.”

Welcoming the former PL whip into the fold, Busuttil said he was pleased to see Godfrey Farrugia joining the PD. An emotional Farrugia was earlier given a warm welcome by PN officials at the reception of Dar Centrali.

Around two hours before the press conference, accompanied by Marlene Farrugia, Godfrey Farrugia submitted his nomination to contest the elections with the PD.

It has been agreed between the two parties that the candidates will run on the PN ticket, differentiated on the ballot sheet with the nicknames ‘tal-Orangjo’ or ‘ta’ Marlene tal-Orangjo’.

During her address, the PD leader said it wasn’t a question over which leader will be leading the coalition: “Like in a household the family is guided by both heads, this political force will be one of consensus.”

She argued that with her presence, and Godfrey Farrugia’s candidature, the “Labour soul” will be represented in the national force.
Targeting Labour supporters in her speech, she said: “You will be winners with us.”

Busuttil shrugs off 'Egrant responsibility'

In reply to questions during the media conference, Busuttil once again refused to state whether he would shoulder political responsibility, if it turned out that the allegations leveled against Joseph Muscat – and his wife’s involvement in an offshore company – turned out to be false.

The allegations are currently being investigated by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, in an inquiry requested by Muscat. Muscat has repeatedly described the allegations as “a political frame-up”. Whilst pledging that he would resign if the inquiry found him guilty of the allegations, Muscat has repeatedly questioned whether Busuttil would do the same if the allegation is confirmed to be a lie.

In his reply, however, Busuttil insisted that it is the Prime Minister who should resign, as the one facing the allegation.

“I don't have a company in Panama and neither do my candidates, something which evidently differs when compared to the prime minister’s candidates,” he quipped, in a dig at the offshore company owned by Konrad Mizzi – a minister and PL candidate on the fourth district.

“The country should not suffer for Joseph Muscat’s wrong actions. I am confident that the Maltese public will be taking the decision which Muscat was unable to do and remove Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.”

The PN leader expressed confidence in the party’s chances of winning the general election:  “I always had faith in that the public will make the right decision in order to give us the chance to clean our political system, once and for all.”

In a reaction, Labour Party deputy leader Chris Cardona insisted that Busuttil refusing to “take responsibility” for his allegations meant he was not worthy of the role of Prime Minister.

Referring to Busuttil’s comments as “an important development”, Cardona said that Muscat had said that if the inquiry links him to the company, he would instantly resign, while also challenging Busuttil to do the same, irrespective of his role when the inquiry is published.

“Busuttil did not answer the question and avoided taking the responsibility for a lie that has led us to the current situation,” said Cardona, who insisted that the allegations are what had brought on an early election and had also tarnished Malta’s reputation abroad.  

“Accountability is there for everyone and not for a few,” continued Cardona. “A public person can’t be taken seriously when he makes serious accusations about someone and then hides, despite the damage inflicted on the person’s reputation.”