No major issue overshadowed the last election, giving people the chance to vote on issues that affected them personally, according to PN's executive president Ann Fenech.

She said this was one of the main reasons the PN lost so colossally despite such a good performance in Government in an extremely difficult international context.

"There was another important element. The Nationalist Party spent 25 years in Government, besides two years which everyone forgets... We believe nothing we could have done - even if we were all gilded in gold - could have changed the fact that people wanted change," she told tonight's PN general council, themed "forward" ('il quddiem).

The lead author of the PN's defeat report added that each of the hundreds of points listed in the document was used by voters as an "excuse" or "justification" to refrain from voting PN or go a step further and vote Labour.

In her first formal speech as a party official, Dr Fenech elaborated on one point mentioned in the report: that Labour leader Joseph Muscat benefited from the death of Labour icon Dom Mintoff.

She said that after going out of his way to distance himself from his party's history and reach out to people who despised Mr Mintoff, Dr Muscat was given a golden opportunity to eulogise the controversial former Prime Minister and also win over his loyal hardcore supporters.

Urging the party to close the healing process, Dr Fenech said it would be difficult to win back 36,000 votes, "but these are not millions".

"The advantage of this country is that we all know each other," she said, adding that the party had to target sections of voters directly and forge thousands of paths into the party.

Speaking before Dr Fenech, incoming general secretary Chris Said paid tribute to the people who occupied the role before him.

He said the PN had accepted with humility the message sent by the electorate three months ago. It would now work tirelessly to start fulfilling the aspirations of voters once again.

"The road will not be easy. Some of us might give up or feel the burden of this challenge is too much to shoulder. But I can assure you of one thing: we will get there," he said, adding that Nationalists had never given up in the past.

The party's headquarters was this evening set up slightly differently than in recent general council meetings. The foyer was transformed into a cafeteria, equipped with a number of chairs and tables, while the council room did not feature the usual stage. Instead, the podium was placed at ground level and chairs were placed around it.

Dr Busuttil sat among the crowd, the way Prime Minister Joseph Muscat did during the election campaign.

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