The Malta Independent 15 December 2017, Friday

Delia’s leadership

Stephen Calleja Wednesday, 1 November 2017, 13:23 Last update: about 2 months ago

Adrian Delia’s political life did not start easily. Even before he was elected leader of the Nationalist Party, the allegations that surfaced against him could have thrown it out the window within weeks. But he persisted and, now that against all the odds he has made it to the top, matters have not quietened down.

He has inherited a Nationalist Party coming from two successive massive electoral defeats, still mired in financial woes and, now, also a fragmented organisation.

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The weak leadership of Simon Busuttil brought the party to its knees, and placed it in a worse situation than the one it experienced in 2013. Given the way things have always worked in Malta, what was expected in 2017 was that the PN, at least, would have narrowed, possibly halved the 35,000 margin with which Labour had won four years earlier. But Busuttil managed to do even worse.

This happened in spite of the mountain of accusations that were levelled at the party in government and its exponents, with top officials including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat under a heavy cloud of investigation that also led to the election being called one year earlier than scheduled.

Simply put, the great majority of people preferred to elect a prime minister facing serious accusations than put the country in Busuttil’s hands. If that is not a vote of no confidence in Busuttil’s capabilities, then I don’t know what is.

Any other politician would have called it a day, but Busuttil has chosen to stay on as an MP. His presence in the parliamentary group only serves to make things even more awkward for his successor, who, it is reported, continues to face internal strife. News that a coup is being planned against Delia has been unconvincingly dismissed by Nationalist MPs, but it is evident that Delia does not enjoy too much support among those who should be his closest aides.

These MPs form part of a party which portrays itself as the beacon of democracy, and yet they cannot accept the result of an election which was open to all its members. The motion filed by Delia’s rival for the leadership, Chris Said, for Parliament to set up a board to investigate claims made by Daphne Caruana Galizia, which include Delia, is yet another indication of the type of bad atmosphere that exists at Pieta.

Just note the difference: when Muscat came under great pressure earlier this year, all Labour MPs and the party as a whole rallied behind him in support. This did not happen with Delia, and when the pre-leadership election movements did not succeed in stopping him from winning, there are now post-election manoeuvres to put spokes in his wheels.

This is not to say that Delia does not have his own baggage to carry. He does, and although he managed to convince the majority of councillors and members that he is the best choice the party has at the moment, he needs to work very hard to persuade the rest of the population that he is a better option than Muscat. He is naturally gifted in public speaking, but this is certainly not enough.

Unless Delia manages to unite the party, it is hard to imagine the PN becoming electable. But, then again, this is probably what his detractors from within want.

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