The Malta Independent 16 December 2017, Saturday

Delia’s seat and beyond

Stephen Calleja Monday, 25 September 2017, 10:18 Last update: about 4 months ago

The difficulties that the Nationalist Party faced to find a seat in the House of Representatives for its new leader Adrian Delia is pure evidence that the division that emerged strongly in the election race will be hard to overcome.

Delia’s victory came against all odds. He was an outsider, with little political experience. More than this, Delia immediately became a target for the Nationalist Party machine, which manifestly opposed his “new way”.

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Led by caretaker leader Simon Busuttil and the party’s administrative committee president Karol Aquilina, the PN establishment – as Delia himself described it – put countless spokes in his wheels, largely based on allegations that surfaced on a blog.

They told Delia to withdraw his candidature, absurdly interpreting a report hastily drawn up by an ethics committee which suggested nothing of the sort. The party issued statements aimed at hurting his chances. They became so desperate that they came up with hints of association with freemasons.

But, as happened elsewhere, it all backfired. The voters saw through the machinations, and still voted for Delia in their majority. Delia’s election, if nothing else, showed an urge to move away from the establishment’s manipulations and intentions to hold on to power at all costs. Most of all, it was yet another example that people are not easily deceived into believing all they see and read.

Still, Delia’s election, as said earlier, has not resolved the Nationalist Party’s problems. And this goes beyond the issue of Delia’s seat in parliament, which is now over thanks to Jean Pierre Debono’s sacrifice.

There are other matters which Delia must face, and given the amount of spite and malice that emerged in the run-up to the election and even afterwards, it will not be an easy job for him to find support from MPs and officials who openly hoped for his defeat.

For one thing, the presence of Simon Busuttil as part of the parliamentary group will be an added headache. Busuttil, as was his right, chose to retain his seat in the House, but this will of course generate some discomfort when delicate situations crop up, especially during internal meetings. The fact that Busuttil publicly expressed himself against Delia will complicate matters further.

The same goes for Chris Said. There is always bitterness when one loses a leadership bid, and the fact that Said went to great lengths to use allegations made against Delia to increase his (Said’s) chance for election now puts the Gozitan MP in a somewhat embarrassing situation.

Then there are MPs who worked hard against Delia. Jason Azzopardi, Edwin Vassallo, Karl Gouder and David Stellini all endorsed Said and, together with the already-mentioned Busuttil and Aquilina, will now need to find a way to build bridges with their new leader – if they want to, that is.

To be fair, Vassallo and Stellini, after the result, have moved on. But, judging by what they are saying and doing, the rest are more reluctant to accept that they have lost.

Delia must be careful, because his enemies lie within.

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