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Delia’s co-option rebuffs: Bartolo offered paid role, Aquilina denies rumour of compensation

Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina has denied rumours that he demanded secretary-general post and financial compensation to resign seat for Adrian Delia's co-option

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
20 September 2017, 9:53am
Not going anywhere: Karol Aquilina has denied rumours that he asked to be made PN secretary-general to resign his seat for Adrian Delia
Not going anywhere: Karol Aquilina has denied rumours that he asked to be made PN secretary-general to resign his seat for Adrian Delia
The rivalry at the heart of the Nationalist Party after the election of newcomer Adrian Delia is proving insurmountable for the new leader, as he seeks a route inside the House of Representatives to become Opposition leader.

Nationalist MP Chris Said was not present yesterday for yet another appearance of Delia at the PN’s Independence celebrations on the Granaries at Floriana.

Behind the scenes, an attempt by Delia to bring Said into a potential leadership

formation as deputy leader for parliamentary affairs, appears to be hampered by the prospect of other contenders for the post.

Sources privy to a brief meeting held between Delia and Said this week, said party whip David Agius was mooted for the post of deputy leader for parliamentary affairs.

This only complicated efforts to extend an olive branch to Said, who garnered 48% of the vote during last week’s election, just 800 votes short of Delia’s vote.

Past leadership elections have always seen losing candidates co-opted to the party’s deputy leadership: Guido de Marco in 1977 and Mario de Marco in 2013 had lost to the winning candidate by far wider margins, and later assumed deputy leader roles.

But Delia’s supporters are now finding the doors closed to the new leader’s co-option into the House, which can only be secured with the resignation of an MP.

Delia’s backers are hoping they can soften intra-parliamentary resistance to his election, which he secured with 52% of some 15,000 party members who voted last week.

Simon Busuttil is constitutionally still Opposition leader, and Delia is hoping he can take up a seat in the House in time for the opening of the new parliamentary legislature on 1 October, and the Budget speech scheduled for the week after.

Ivan Bartolo refuses to resign

Ivan Bartolo
Ivan Bartolo
Indeed, a meeting held yesterday at the Qormi office of Nationalist MP Clyde Puli, led to a fruitless conclusion in a bid to have Ivan Bartolo resign his seat in the House.

The former Mosta mayor was elected to the House through a casual election, which means his resignation would not trigger another casual election, and therefore pave the way for Delia’s co-option.

Puli as well as Pierre Portelli, an advisor to Delia and the Malta Independent’s director of content, reportedly offered Ivan Bartolo a paid post as consultant to Delia, and party backing for Bartolo to re-assume his position as mayor of Mosta – in itself a labyrinthine process of party horse-trading.

Bartolo yesterday refused to disclose details of the meeting but told MaltaToday that, as declared in the past, he would not be resigning his seat.

On Wednesday morning, the PN’s president of the administrative council, Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina, denied rumours that he had suggested being offered some form of compensation to resign his seat.

“These rumours are that I asked to be made secretary-general and be offered a sum of money. They are rumours being spread while PN leader Adrian Delia searches for ways of becoming an MP.”

Aquilina denied the allegations or that he was involved in any negotiations to resign his seat, which he won by casual election.

“I have no ambition of being PN secretary-general. I condemn whoever is spreading these rumours to harm me and the PN.”

 

Party sources told MaltaToday that other MPs elected in the casual elections, such as David Stellini and Karol Aquilina, the latter a public backer of Said, were resolute not to resign.

Maria Deguara, the former Naxxar mayor, was also reported to have refused to resign after holding a two-hour meeting on the matter on Monday.

That leaves Godfrey Farrugia, also elected by casual election, but whose seat is claimed by the Democratic Party, after being elected as part of the ‘Forza Nazzjonali’ coalition on the PN ticket. It remains to be seen whether PD leader and MP Marlene Farrugia would be ready to give up her party’s second seat.

Delia’s other options to assume his seat in the House would be the resignation of any other MP directly elected to the House. But that would automatically trigger a casual election.
At that point, Delia would have to convince all Nationalist candidates on the resigning MP’s district not to contest the casual election.

But even then, Delia would still have to contend with those candidates fielded by the PD on the Nationalist ticket, and convince his coalition partner not to run for the casual election. That could easily invite negotiations with Marlene Farrugia, who has derided the choice of Delia by PN voters as an attempt of turning the PN into a copy of the Labour Party.

Another option for Delia could be to seek the resignation of an MP, and then agreement from any of the candidates elected in the subsequent casual election, to resign and make way for his co-option.

But while Gozitan MP Frederick Azzopardi has been reported to be amenable to resigning his seat, party sources speaking to MaltaToday insist that candidates on the 13th district are also unwilling to forgo their candidature on that casual election.

Right of Reply by Karol Aquilina

I refer to the article entitled “Delia’s headache to find seat in the house” published in Maltatoday’s Wednesday edition (20 September 2017) and on maltatoday.com.mt. In this article I am erroneously described as a “a public backer of [Chris] Said”.

I would like to clarify that I have never publicly backed Chris Said or anyone else for that matter. Indeed, those who are actively involved in the party structures can confirm that Chris Said and myself have had a strained relationship for the past couple of years. However, we have always respected each other’s roles and both worked hard to ensure the best possible result for the Nationalist Party in the last general election.

At the very beginning of the campaign for party leader I had spoken to the four candidates and explained to them that I will not be backing any one of them and will refuse to attend public events organized by their respective campaign teams. I also told them that my involvement will be purely in the context of my role as President of the Administrative Council and casting my vote on the day like thousands of other PN members. That is exactly what I’ve done to date.

Dr Karol Aquilina

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.