With former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil making his way to Brussels for one of the top posts in the European People’s Party, all eyes now turn to who his parliamentary replacement could be.
A major figure in the PN despite the party’s poor performance in 2017, Busuttil is best-known for taking a strong stance against corruption and is held in high esteem among certain protest groups. His replacement will be expected to fill the void with the same sort of vigour.
Busuttil will step away from the 12th District, a PN majority area which includes Mellieħa, Naxxar and St Paul’s Bay, opening up the door for some eager candidates to take his place.
A casual election will now take place with a date yet to be set. The candidate will be elected according to the votes they would have inherited from the resigning MP.
In this case, it could prove to be challenging, with then-PN Leader Busuttil getting 9,389 first-preference votes.
Lovin Malta took a look at the front-runners in the race:
1. David Thake
Thake had just missed out on getting elected in the 2017 general election, with Deputy Speaker Claudette Buttigieg beating him to the post.
He received just 126 first-count votes. However, he gained 868 votes of then-leader Simon Busuttil’s second preference votes, the most out of the candidates left.
Thake, a former popular PN broadcaster and commuter, still enjoys some support among the grassroots, most recently speaking at an anti-corruption rally during the current political crisis.
He had served in the St Paul’s local council before resigning following a declaration that he could no longer represent the Nationalist party with Adrian Delia as the leader.
2. Graziella Galea
Thake’s closest rival would most likely be Graziella Galea, the former Mayor of St Paul’s Bay and the daughter of party stalwart Ċensu Galea.
She currently serves as the Minority Leader in the area’s local council, recently raising the issue of the as-yet uncompleted school in Qawra.
Galea received 615 of Busuttil’s second preference votes, not trailing too far behind Thake. With close to 9,389 votes set to be opened, it remains to be seen how a race between the pair will pan out.
3. Joe Giglio or Bernard Grech
If no one throws their name in the hat for the casual election, it could open up the door for either Joe Giglio or Bernard Grech.
Giglio has already said that he plans to increase his involvement within the party, while Grech has regularly kept the door open for a foray into the political arena.
Both have seen their stock rise over the past few months, with television appearances endearing them to a Maltese public that has grown disillusioned with the PN.
This is reflected in surveys, with both Grech (7.40%) and Giglio (5.26%) ranking highly when it came to people’s first choice for party leader.
4. An outside candidate?
While Galea and Thake are the only two candidates who received a significant bulk of Busuttil’s second preference votes, there are many others who missed out in the election.
These include Sam Abela, Simone Aquilina, Mark Azzopardi, Duncan Bonnici, Salvu Mallia and Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami.
Either one could make to the parliamentary floor should they run unopposed.