Fifth district hopeful Hermann Schiavone has so far not been included in the PN's list of approved candidates.
The Nationalist Party's executive committee has so far not approved the candidature of long-time party activist Hermann Schiavone, and has omitted the perceived 'heavyweight' from a partial list of approved candidates announced on Monday.
The move is widely considered as a stratagem to avoid irking backbencher Franco Debono, or at least to keep the Ghaxaq MP guessing as to the PN's intentions. However, the surprise announcement of PN MEP David Casa as a candidate on the fifth district is understood to have caused more ripples in this already problematic district for the PN.
Hailing from Marsaxlokk, Schiavone was planning to run on the same electoral district as the rebel backbencher. In fact he had already launched his 'unofficial' candidature with the PN last April, with an event held precisely in his hometown of Marsaxlokk.
In comments to MaltaToday yesterday evening, Schiavone didn't seem unduly irritated by the PN's decision to omit him from a partial list of candidates announced on Monday.
"It is the party that decides whom to call and when to call them. Electoral candidature is no one's right. I am and will be available to serve whenever the PN decides to call me," Schiavone said, projecting a clear sense of party loyalty.
Asked whether he considered the move as a strategy to avoid angering Franco Debono any further, Schiavone simply replied that this was only "speculation".
"Such comments are only speculation. Personally, I have no problem with the PN," he said, reiterating that party would call him whenever it feels it should do so.
Debono, whose opposition to Schiavone's candidature has always been made public, claims Schiavone had accused him of being the source of anonymous accusations made against Schiavone in 2003, preventing him from contesting the general election.
His wife Anne ran in his stead, winning 1,244 first preference votes. Franco Debono won 1,130 votes in the 2003 election.
Last year, Debono's claims led the PN to publicly declare Schiavone was not a party candidate and that he was directed "not to present himself as one."
A PN spokesman in December had said: "It is unacceptable for the Nationalist Party that a serious allegation is made against one of its MPs by a person who then fails to either substantiate the allegation when asked to do so or to withdraw the allegation."
But in the past months, Schiavone still campaigned with the full cognisance and blessing of the party and more importantly, he can be seen at all public meetings in which the Prime Minister is present as a speaker.
On many occasions, he was seen together with Manuel Delia, Minister Austin Gatt's head of secretariat, and also a PN candidate aspiring to rival Debono on the fifth district.
Elsewhere, on Monday the executive of the Nationalist Party has approved the second batch of candidates for the general elections.
The short list of six includes MEPs Simon Busuttil and David Casa, Claudette Buttigieg (the TV presenter formerly known as Claudette Pace); PN executive president Marthese Portelli, Joanna Agius and Anthony Bezzina.
While David Casa will be contesting the fifth district, Simon Busuttil - who had earlier denied that he would be standing for election - will be contesting the eleventh district.
Writing on his personal blog, backbencher Franco Debono insisted that he "didn't care" who the PN chooses to approve for its candidates.
Reacting to the PN's decision to push forward new candidates on the fifth district - where Franco Debono has always contested - Debono wrote that the party could approve whoever it wanted. "He [Gonzi] thinks that he can use the new candidates to provoke me, forcing me to do something when he wants," Debono wrote. "But when will he grow up?... he's a lackey, he incites, he plays the saint while fomenting bad blood."