The Malta Independent 16 December 2018, Sunday

TMID Editorial: Nationalist Party - Adrian Delia’s first year

Tuesday, 25 September 2018, 09:39 Last update: about 4 months ago

The Independence Day celebrations coincided with the first anniversary of Adrian Delia’s leadership of the Nationalist Party.

It has been a difficult year for the Opposition Leader.

One year into his office, there are still many Nationalist supporters who have not accepted him, and most of them were ardent followers of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, whose writings about Delia in the run-up to the PN leadership contest cast long shadows. Delia is still to shirk them off and, given the way these people chose to blindly follow Caruana Galizia, it will be an arduous, if not impossible, task to get them on board.

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To make matters worse for Delia, among the more vocal opponents were politicians from his side of the political divide, including MPs. What did not help Delia at all is the fact that his predecessor, Simon Busuttil, stayed on in the House of Representatives. Busuttil resigned from the leadership, but he retained his seat in Parliament, unlike what Lawrence Gonzi had done when he had lost the 2013 election.

In spite of losing the 2017 election with an even bigger margin than four years earlier and leading the PN to its worst ever defeat in history, Busuttil felt that he should remain as an MP, and there is no doubt that this situation contributed to more division than unity within the party’s internal structures.

David Casa’s mix-up of the leader’s name in an activity last week – Casa said the leader was “Adrian Busuttil” – may have been just a lapsus, but it does also give an indication that Busuttil’s presence in the party is more of a hindrance than an asset. That, then, Delia and Busuttil went head-to-head after the publication of the conclusions of the Egrant inquiry exposed the difficulties being encountered by Delia in his administration.

It is not uncommon for people to associate MPs with the faction they perceive them to be: “he’s with Delia”, or “she’s with Busuttil” is a phrase that is often used when people are talking PN politics. Until this is over, Delia’s attempt to rebuild the party will find more obstacles than helping hands.

In this past year, Delia has found himself fighting on two fronts – battling the government on issues ranging from migration, corruption, the environment and social issues, and having to contend with internal dissent. The latter required more energy than the former, and this deprived him of the necessary time to dedicate to the formulation of the party’s policies for the months and years to come. He also did not always have the full cooperation of his MPs, for reasons mentioned earlier.

Delia’s biggest test will come in May, when the PN will face the election for Malta’s representatives in the European Parliament. It will be a do-or-die situation for him, and as matters stand now, it is going to be tough. Surveys indicate that the Labour Party still enjoys massive support, and the PN is running the great risk of losing the third seat.

If this does happen, there will be fresh calls for him to move aside while the inside rumblings will grow more. Delia – and the party – must work hard to avoid this. But it clear that not everyone at Pieta is pulling the same rope.

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