The Malta Independent 4 August 2020, Tuesday

Numbers on their side: ‘Rebel’ MPs believe Delia would be kicked out by General Council

Neil Camilleri Sunday, 12 July 2020, 08:30 Last update: about 22 days ago

‘We do not want to split the party’

The anti-Delia group of MPs believes the embattled PN Leader would be ousted in a no-confidence vote at the party’s General Council.

Speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday on condition of anonymity, a number of dissenting MPs said the group does not wish to split the Nationalist Party, “because that is what the Labour Party wants.”

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17 MPs have gone to the President to inform him that they no longer have confidence in the Opposition Leader. They have proposed Therese Comodini Cachia to replace him.

Delia has stuck to his guns and insisted he will not step down, citing the fact that he was twice confirmed by the party’s tesserati (paid-up members).

President Vella yesterday informed the ‘rebel’ MPs that they have the required numbers to trigger Delia’s removal, but said he has been given legal advice to the effect that he would then have to immediately re-appoint Delia as Opposition Leader. This contrasts with the advice given to the MPs by constitutional experts Giovanni Bonello, Kevin Aquilina and Austin Bencini.

The issue lies with the paragraph, in the Constitution, regulating the appointment of an Opposition Leader. This part of the law states that the Opposition Leader shall be the leader of the biggest political party in the opposition leader.

This means that, if Delia refuses to resign as party leader, the President will be unable to appoint a new Opposition Leader … at least according to the legal advice he is being given.

 

Preparing for any eventuality

One of the MPs said the group is “preparing for any eventuality”, including taking the necessary internal action to oust Delia from the post.

The MP said removing Delia as Opposition Leader only will not help the party emerge from its pitiful state. “Obviously, he has to be removed from the role of party leader, too. Tuesday’s vote was only the first step.”

This can be done only through a vote by the PN’s General Council. Asked if they would have the necessary support to oust Delia, the MP said that “the numbers are on our side.”

Another MP pointed out, however, that Delia could possibly file a counter motion turning the confidence vote into an impromptu leadership election between him and Comodini Cachia.

“It’s not just us telling him to go. The heads of several of the party organs have told him his position is untenable and even close friends have urged him to consider his position.”

It remains unclear whether the PN’s executive committee will be meeting this week. Delia said on Tuesday that he would convene the executive to discuss the outcome of the vote but, so far, no meeting has been set.

Sources also said that MPs confronted Delia, during Tuesday’s meeting, about a survey that had been commissioned by the party, but which had been kept under wraps. The survey, this newspaper was told, confirmed other recent polls that showed that the PN is lagging far behind the PL.

 

A waiting game

Another MP said Delia might be hesitant to call for a vote in the executive committee because, “if he loses there too, it would be another defeat for him.”

But another source said the executive would probably back Delia, prolonging the stalemate.

Asked if they have considered resigning from the PN and starting a new party of their own, the MPs said the idea had been brought up but is not really on the cards. “That would only help strengthen the Labour government and what we need is a strong and united opposition.”

A source from the Delia camp said yesterday that the situation had turned into a “waiting game,” with Delia waiting to see what the President would decide.

 

Who is advising the President?

There were calls yesterday for the President’s office to name the legal expert who is advising the government.

“The three experts we engaged did not remain anonymous, so why should the expert advising the President remain hidden,” one MP said.

Contacted about this matter, PN MP Chris Said who kicked off the ousting process together with Claudette Buttigieg, said: “Let’s not forget that the Labour Party has every interest to retain Adrian Delia as Opposition Leader. The Labour media has been strongly defending Delia,” he pointed out. “One might ask, are these anonymous experts pushing the Labour agenda? Are they doing it so that the Opposition remains weak and broken?”

The Opposition can only get stronger if it overcomes this hurdle, he said.

The Malta Independent on Sunday is informed that the anti-Delia MPs gave a form of ‘ultimatum’ to the President, warning that they do not exclude seeking action in the courts should he not remove Delia.

Delia on Friday that he made legal representations to the President when he was called for a meeting, and it is “not right” that the President is involved in a public debate.

He reaffirmed his loyalty to the paid-up members and observance to the party statute, while also his loyalty to the oath he took as Opposition Leader.

Delia said he will continue to work for every Maltese and Gozitan “without fear or influence and with a clean conscience”.

Questions sent to the President’s office earlier this week remain unanswered. This newsroom had also asked Delia for an interview.

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