The Malta Independent 20 September 2020, Sunday

TMID Editorial: PN election - The race begins

Monday, 3 August 2020, 08:47 Last update: about 3 months ago

The PN’s General Council voted in favour for a leadership election, with Saturday night’s result being a representation of just how the party is split internally.

In all, 839 councillors (55.6%) voted to have a leadership election while 659 (43.6%) voted to confirm or reject the present leader. Eleven votes (0.8%) were invalid.

Those dissenting against Delia’s leadership were pushing for such a leadership election, while Delia wanted the second option, thus resulting in a loss for the current leader. Regardless however, the vote in terms of overall numbers was close, less than a 200 difference, but in terms of percentages was comparable to the 2017 general election gap between the PL and the PN.

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The PN now has, however, a set way forward.

Delia declared his intention to contest the internal election the very same night the votes were counted.

The decision in the General Council could be seen as a shift in support away from Delia. In 2019 he had won a vote of confidence in the General Council, with 67.75% of the votes cast. However the majority of councillors have voted for a leadership election, rather than a confirmation process.

It, of course, remains to be seen whether Delia’s support has weakened among the PN’s tesserati.

People will now begin throwing their hats into the ring, putting themselves forward as potential candidates for the leadership. Some of these people, if not coming from the ‘rebel’ camp, might be appealing to Delia’s followers, thus he could lose support in that situation.

People have been suggesting that the race could come down between a candidate proposed by the dissenting MPs, and Delia, but this might not end up being the case. The party might vote to move forward with as middle candidate, one who could perhaps unite the two sides. This will, of course, depend on who ends up running.

The final decision that will be taken by the party, and the new leader elected, must end up uniting the party and not create further division.

A general election is looming, and thus this leadership election at this moment in time is already a risky move. Come 2022, or perhaps earlier should the Prime Minister end up deciding to call an early election, the PN will have to go to the polls and face public opinion.

People within the party need to take this into consideration and choose a person who could bring them the best result in the polls. While the PN does not have a chance in the next general election, having a split PN supporter base will result in a completely ineffective Opposition in Parliament, and thus the party would fail to do its duty for the country.

While it would be easy to say that if Delia wins, those against him should fall in line, and if Delia loses, he should gracefully bow out and support the new leader, how realistic is that outcome? Whoever wins will have an uphill struggle, but the party must find a way to unite and work peacefully after this internal election concludes, as not doing so will be a failure on its part and to do so would risk inching closer to a 2/3rds majority.

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