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Top Story • February 22 2004

Gonzi hits a snag as Dalli says 40% back him
Kurt Sansone and Matthew Vella

With the end of the second week of campaigning for the coveted post of PN leader and Prime Minister, Finance and Economic Affairs Minister John Dalli yesterday said surveys conducted by his team had revealed he enjoyed the support of around 40 per cent of the general council.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Gonzi’s leadership campaign hit a snag yesterday when four major constituted bodies turned down an invitation to attend a meeting between the leadership hopeful and members of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development at the Mediterranean Conference Centre.
The media invitation issued on Friday described the meeting as a chance for Gonzi to hear what the social partners expect of the new PN leader and future prime minister. However, only five organisations turned up for the meeting at the Mediterranean Conference Centre – the General Workers’ Union, the GRTU, the Federation of Professional Associations, the Pensioners’ Alliance and the government appointed National Council for Disabled Persons.
Talking at the PN club in Sliema John Dalli said this about his support base: “This is not based on those people I met who said they would be voting for me. Otherwise it would have been 99.9 per cent.” The Finance minister also claimed that 29.5 per cent of the councillors who will be voting in an eventual new Prime Minister, remain undecided.
“I feel councillors trust me leading this party since I am capable of taking decisions without dilly-dallying. I may not sound my trumpet, although I have faced many problems since 1987 which called for difficult decisions.”
Anticipating a reaction on the lack of participation of other influential bodies, Lawrence Gonzi started the meeting by saying that the Malta Employers’ Association, the Federation of Industry, the Chamber of Commerce and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association had turned down the invitation because they did not want to be seen participating in the PN leadership campaign. Despite not getting a mention, the UHM, the confederation of trade unions, the teachers’ union and other influential organisations were also not present at the meeting.
“Eddie Fenech Adami trusted me with the finance portfolio four times throughout his tenure. Councillors are showing trust in me because I can keep the balance between the social forces which can land the PN another electoral victory,” Dalli said. And his recipe for victory: the creation of economic wealth and peace through economic prosperity and individual fulfilment.
Surrounded by leading PN local councillors and mayors, other general council members and his two parliamentary secretaries, Tony Abela and Edwin Vassallo, John Dalli yesterday said the last weeks of his campaign had been spent visiting councillors at their homes and offices. Harking on his vision to give the PN party structure a bottom-up approach that would give a greater stake to the party grassroots, Dalli said he had also met district and sectional committee members to speak about issues in an open manner.
“I am glad to see these councillors treating their responsibility in this election with such seriousness. We met and we spoke about my years in the party, the violence during the 80s, the threat to freedom and the bid to regain democracy, and what qualities they believed were required of a PN leader.”
Dalli’s confident mood yesterday also saw him assure his audience that he believed his qualities were “in conformity” with those of outgoing premier and party leader Eddie Fenech Adami. He is assuring that a government under his leadership would be based on the values of the seventy-year old PM – “dialogue and consultation from when an idea is sowed, not after decisions are taken.”
Elsewhere during Dalli’s press conference, main rival and deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi was holding a meeting with the social partners of the Malta Council for Economic Social Development, to which only a handful of members attended. Asked for his reaction by MaltaToday, Dalli said he had been the first to forge a three-year social pact within the MCESD, which had not been renewed following the pull-out of the General Workers Union.


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