Former prime minister Joseph Muscat hoovered up 12,886 of the 15,259 first count votes that went to Labour from this district in the 2017 general election.
That helped Labour gain two-thirds of the vote, 65.73%, to the PN’s one-third, 33.25%, returning three seats for Labour and two for PN.
Ministers Owen Bonnici and Julia Farrugia Portelli trailed in second and third place in this district, made up of Birżebbuġa, Kirkop, Mqabba, Ħal Farruġ (Luqa), Qrendi, Safi, Żurrieq and Bubaqra (Żurrieq).
On the PN’s side, Anthony Bezzina, better known as Toni, garnered the most support, followed by Hermann Schiavone, who will not be re-contesting.
The fifth district is often portrayed by Labour as part of the forgotten land under PN administrations.
Prime Minister Robert Abela switched from his usual Qormi stomping ground on the sixth district to instead contest on the fifth this time.
The move may have been intended to help shore up support for Labour as well as provide a direct comparison between Abela and his predecessor, Muscat.
Given the industrial nature of parts of the district, with a freeport in Birżebbuġa and an airport abutting many of the other localities, concerns about the impact of these air and maritime activities often top residents’ list of complaints.
While on the campaign trail this week, Abela pledged to move a number of the Birżebbuġa freeport operations away from residential areas, including stopping crane operations on one of the quays.
What to look out for
The headline battle on this district is undoubtedly the head-to-head between Abela and PN leader Bernard Grech.
Abela’s decision to switch to the fifth district has, however, ruffled some feathers within Labour. Miriam Dalli was likely on course to comfortably stack up the most votes of all Labour candidates but will now have to play second fiddle to Abela.
Assuming Labour again wins three seats, the third seat should see a fierce contest between Bonnici and Farrugia Portelli, with backbenchers Micallef and Stefano Zrinzo Azzopardi also hoping to make an impact.
In the blue corner, Grech’s candidature will fill the void left by Schiavone, who will not be contesting his seat again on March 26.
Given that Grech is a virtual shoo-in, the other candidates will be left with the difficult task of prying the remaining seat away from district heavyweight Bezzina.
Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi
Julia Farrugia Portelli
Jean Claude Micallef
Joseph Mario Sammut
Melissa Joan Bagley