Busuttil confirms PN will support Marriage Equality Bill – despite concerns

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil confirmed the PN would support the Marriage Equality Bill and that it would continue to work closely with the Democratic Party

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil

Although the question of gay marriages was a delicate issue for the Nationalist Party and for many of its members and supporters, the opposition would be voting in favour of the Marriage Equality Bill in Parliament, Simon Busuttil said this morning.

Speaking on Radio 101, the Opposition and PN leader said he had attended a number of civil unions in the past three years.

“I saw them for what they are: a celebration of love like any other marriage,” he said.

Busuttil said that the new legislation was, in fact, not so different from the civil unions legislation introduced three years, since that had given the unions the same weight as marriage already.

Nonetheless, he said he could understand how some people could conceive it to be controversial, but said the PN had decided to vote in favour of the bill – alebit with some minor amendments – even because it had promised to do just that in its electoral manifesto.

Busuttil insisted that although the party was in a state of transition – as the party apparatus geared up to leadership elections in September – it remains strong, organised, functioning and able to be an effective opposition.

He said that the party executive had also decided to accept to work with the two Democratic Party members of parliament as one parliamentary group.

“Throughout the election campaign, we worked hand in hand with the Democratic Party, which managed to get two of its candidates elected on the PN ticket,” he said. “In my opinion, it made a lot of sense that we continue working closely together, even after the election, also because the two PD elected MPs earned a lot of PN votes.”

Busuttil said that working as one parliamentary group would be of great benefit to the opposition and also for the country.

“This also means that Marlene and Godfrey Farrugia have agreed to place themselves under the whip of the PN in this common opposition group,” he said.

Resignation

Busuttil said that he had decided to step down as leader of the PN after the election because he believed in responsibility and good governance – as well as good leadership.

“I felt that the result being what it was, I had to take responsibility and step aside,” he said. “I understand the huge expression of support from many quarters, but this is what I believe firmly in. I can step outside with my head held high.

He said that in other circumstances, if things had turned out differently – “if, for instance, the loss had not been so great” – his reaction may have been different.

He said he was elated at the fact that following the election, 1,000 persons had joined the party and a further 400 had registered as volunteers.

Leadership contest

Busuttil said that the upcoming leadership contest to select his successor would be fair and transparent, so that all the contestants are treated equally.

“Following the news this morning, I would not be surprised to see quite a considerable number of people coming forward to run for this post,” he said.

MaltaToday revealed on Saturday evening that Brikirkara FC president Adrian Delia had confirmed he would be contesting the upcoming PN leadership. The news was carried in various newspapers this morning.

Busuttil said that the PN executive has decided that the leadership election would be opened up to all party members – around 20,000 – instead of limiting it to the 1,500 members of the General Council.

“That is true inclusion at its best,” he said. “And it was always my dream to see the PN return to being the party of the people.”

In the first week of September, the General Council would meet to elect two final contestants, who would then be presented for a final vote by the party members on 16 September.

Busuttil explained that if one of the final two contestants withdraws before the final vote, the remaining would still need to face the vote by party members and would need to secure the approval of at least 66% of the voting members.

Magisterial inquiries

Asked about the pending magisterial inquiries into allegations of corruption, graft and money laundering against minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, Busuttil said that although Joseph Muscat won the election, he still remained under investigation.

“That was part of our surprise at the result of the election,” he said. “How can a person under investigation win an election? And yet, that is democracy for you.”

Busuttil said the election result did not wash away the sins of the past four years, so much so that the magistrates were still pursuing their inquiries.

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